November 29, 2022

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SHP Awards 2022

Winner announced for SHP’s Trailblazer in Health and Safety Award

The SHP Awards judging panel has selected its SHP’s Trailblazer in Health and Safety winner. We also reveal those that made the final shortlist.

We will be announcing all the Trailblazer finalists and winners this week including the ESG and wellbeing awards.

SHP’s Trailblazer Awards recognise health & safety professionals going above and beyond to make a positive difference – either within their own organisation or more widely in the community.

Trailblazers is brought to you as part of the wider SHP Awards, which, for 2022, is in collaboration with Shirley Parsons, global HSEQ talent experts.

The Trailblazer in Health and Safety Award recognises individuals who have made an impact in workplace safety, people who have transformed safety, through a transformative project or culture change, someone who has used technology to make a safety impact and unsung heroes from within the world of safety.

The winner is…

Matt Hall, Head of Health & Safety for Royal Free London NHS

At the beginning of COVID there were a lot of unknowns and issues nationally with supply of FFP3 masks, this meant that the masks staff had been tested on were not available (plus thousands of extra staff requiring testing on top of this). Many hospitals decided to fit check only rather than fit test due to lack of resource.

Matt spoke to the executive team about the importance of a proper fit test, both for staff safety but also to give staff confidence in the PPE they were wearing. There was a lack of resource and some push back but he offered to coordinate to demonstrate it could be done.

There was no resource in place for fit testing on this scale, and the few staff who were trained to fit test were either desperately needed clinically or off work. In a Trust of normally 10,000 staff, most of whom would not normally need to wear an FFP3 mask, as well as staff from other hospitals, army etc it meant it had 6000 staff who needed testing.

On top of that there was a national shortage of fit testing equipment, and in the early stages the model of mask supplied was changed at very short notice (requiring another fit test for staff to be able to use them).

Initially Matt stepped in and was working 16–18-hour days without days off to fit test the staff who were needed during the sudden surge to ensure that nobody had to enter an area requiring FFP3 without a fit test. He never complained and used the 20-30 minutes to talk to staff about how things were and safety, what they needed or could do to help themselves and others.

Given the hours he was working he recruited a small group of staff who were redeployed (staff who could not work clinically but wanted to do their bit to help out) and trained them. He also contacted education organisations and ‘borrowed’ any fit testing kit and solutions to make sure that was not the limiting factor. He also worked with the Trust’s pharmacy to make the testing solution while the national stocks were replenished.

By training up staff on all sites and working alongside them to support and supervise until they were competent and confident so they could be deployed in small teams across our sites to provide a fit testing service that staff could easily access.

At this stage NHS England were writing to Trusts telling them that a fit test was a requirement, and most Trusts were then having to find a way to do this. However, the Royal Free was already ahead of this, and Matt and the team were commended for this work by NHS London (and our Execs), this was work he shared with other hospitals to support them.

Not only did Matt find the time to do the fit testing and manage this he also made close friends with all the teams in stores (locally, regionally and nationally) so he could support them to get the right masks to the right places and understand why a change in mask at short notice was an issue. He tested the new potential masks and rejected one that was later subject to a national recall due to failing to meet the standard required.

There were times where supply was very short (days of stock left) and he would work with teams to make sure we either fit tested staff onto a new mask or to find areas of overuse.

Rather walk in and tell staff who were wearing a mask when it was not required PPE, he met with teams and answered their questions until they were happy, he explained when and where the PPE was needed. He never ordered them, just listened and shared the information. This resulted in a 50% reduction in PPE use the next week…and a reduction in staff with pressure sores from wearing masks for 12 hours at a time.

The Trust now has a team of over 100 fit testers who are not only trained but have a lot of experience, so we feel a lot more ready to deal with anything in future.

Furthermore, he recognised a problem with the current masks not fitting women and BAME staff, and so worked to get alternative models to support this. He also organised a team to take measurements as part of a national study of healthcare workers face shapes (the Trust collected about 5% of the national data).


He worked with a new model of mask from a supplier and tested it against all staff groups demonstrating a poor pass rate (especially for BAME staff), he fed this back along with feedback on the issues experienced during trying to get a good seal. This feedback, along with a few others, helped the company redesign a mask that had a less than 10% pass rate to a UK-manufactured model that is currently second in use by UK healthcare for FFP3.

Despite working incredibly long days Matt always put aside time to talk to other Hospitals in London and further afield to share and support with his learning and processes whilst the national support slowly ramped up.

He was part of an NHSE-run quality improvement project on fit testing and shared his training and fit testers competency assessment which now forms part of the NHS toolkit for ensuring fit testers maintain their competence and support staff safety.

He has linked H&S and IPC within the NHS at our organisation by working closely with me with previously disparate teams. I know he has advocated at other Trusts that H&S, IPC (and other services) can gain so much from working together and I know he will do this in his next role.


As the changing mask issues started to reduce Matt looked at ways to reduce the impact of disposable FFP3 waste. He met with a number of manufacturers and got a number of different reusable FFP3 models to trial. He worked with my IPC team on how we could clean and disinfect them, on supply chain on making sure we could keep replacements in stock. Once the models that met the right standard of the resilience of supply and IPC measures were identified he carried out tests with staff to compare the reusable and disposable masks, gathered feedback, and found 80% of staff found them more comfortable to wear.

He worked on a business case that demonstrated if the Trust moved over to reusable masks (where appropriate) and based on a conservative estimate that we could reduce the disposable mask use by 50% this would save £300k annually and reduce the waste sent to landfill by about 6 tonnes.

He has also been involved in wider Trust green projects for PPE, including supporting a team introducing reusable gowns and is part of a national NHS network trying to reduce the amount of PPE waste the NHS generates.

Stepping outside the box

Commenting on the winner, Shirley Parsons at global HSEQ talent Experts, Shirley Parsons praised Matt for his efforts. “The winners of this year’s Trailblazer Awards all highlight the importance in stepping outside the usual ‘OHS’ box – keeping up with the issues of today and turning these into opportunities to keep people safer and healthier. Matt Hall’s personal drive and tenacity to keep staff at the Royal Free London NHS as safe as possible is so admirable and impressive. These stories are inspirational and make me so proud to be part of this wonderful profession.”


Grant Thompson, Global EHS Lead, Spirax Sarco Engineering

A trailblazer is defined as ‘an innovative leader’ and ‘a person who marks or prepares a trail for other people to follow’. At the age of 31, Grant Thompson, truly is a trailblazer. He is leading the way for the new generation of health and safety professionals.

Grant has spoken to a number of conferences and written a number of articles about health and safety. He is passionate about young people coming into the sector and founded the Emerging Risk Leaders’ Network; a network created to help and support younger professionals in our industry. Outside of work, Grant is a British Heart Foundation Fundraiser, where he attends schools to teach students basic CPR, and organizes fun runs that have raised over £12,000 to date.

Grant’s nomination included the following, which sums up Grant very well. “A trailblazer is not a spark but a sustainable catalyst for further evolution impacting in a range of areas and expanding successes, influence, impact, personal growth, self-success, business success and the success of others in the process. certainly sets high standards and has and continues to fulfill these criteria in so many ways.”

Anne-Marie Penny, Senior Road Safety Policy Adviser, National Highways

Anne-Marie is a fantastic role model in demonstrating how to ensure the safety of everyone using our roads.

Her passion for road safety stems from a life-threatening motorbike that would influence her in becoming a road safety professional nearly two decades ago. After suffering both physical and mental trauma, Anne-Marie wanted a job that could ultimately prevent such accidents from happening to other people.

She has led teams in Kent as the Motorcycle Safety Officer, Road Safety Development Manager, and Partnership Manager for Kent & Medway Safety Cameras and won two Prince Michael International Road Safety Awards for her work.

Alan Trueman, Head of SHE, CityFibre

Alan together with Derek Stevenson, Marcus Normanton and Todd Halam started an industry safety group in Telecoms to share and agree best safety practice in a new growth industry contributing £17 billion to the UK industry.

The initial desire was to agree common safety standards that could be promoted within the respective organisations to reduce harm and learn from incidents given that there were differing benchmarks imposed on operatives and partners building new telecom networks.

After the initial meeting, SHiFT through promotion through using social media has grown having attracted 32 telecom companies including Openreach, Virgin Media, Vodafone and CityFibre to endorse the SHiFT Safety Charter and be the safety voice for this new industry.

Alan has been the face of SHiFT to promote the ideas of the safety body during its early days and has accomplished the body to become a legal entity, having a safety charter that members sign up to, co-ordinating the competence guidance, production of the initial newsletter, website creation and social media presence.

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