Birmingham’s Women in Health and Safety network huge success
By Danielle Stallard
The HSE Recruitment Network are delighted to have partnered with UBM and Women in Health and Safety Forum to host a vibrant and informative event at The Library of Birmingham. A meeting of like-minded professionals, the event offered a combination of compelling presentations and round-table discussions, providing the attendees with the opportunity to debate relevant issues.
As an overview of the evenings’ discussions, this article will highlight key points raised and will summarise the fantastic ideas shared.
The event was chaired by Bridget Gilmour – a highly experienced safety practitioner and director of her own consultancy, Hundred Acre (GB) Ltd. As an engaging host, Bridget has been involved in several of the forums, encouraging positive conversations and offering support to professionals who may feel they are in a singular and ‘lonely’ role and often in a ‘man’s world’. However, Bridget was keen to point out that the forum discussions are not exclusive to women and should be viewed as an occasion to network and share ideas.
Following a brief introduction from Bridget, Rachel Betteridge – UK Logistics HSE Manager at PepsiCo – was the first to present to the group and provided an insightful look at Driver Health and Wellness. PepsiCo are highly regarded for their health and safety standards, an acknowledgement made by several attendees at the event.
Rachel and the team at PepsiCo recently partnered with Loughborough University to consider proactive ways to improve driver health and wellbeing, and to introduce increased activity and awareness. They developed an initiative which involved the following:
- Conducting surveillance to examine physical activity;
- carrying out research in the form of focus groups; and
- implementing methods to overcome unhealthy behaviours and to improve risk factors.
The initiative aimed to increase understanding of driver lifestyle and to break down the barriers in order to improve this. It is a common concern within the logistics market as sedentary roles and low levels of activity greatly affect the physical and mental wellbeing of employees. The group discussed issues to consider when addressing this, such as the stigma that men are less likely to openly discuss health and wellbeing, as well as the lower number of female HGV drivers in the industry.
Other areas for concern were also raised when considering the wellbeing of professional drivers, such as alcohol and drug use. Two attendees within the construction industry discussed the methods in place at their businesses, such as daily breathalyser tests and sporadic urine sampling.
While the final results are still to be confirmed by Loughborough University, it seems that with the use of various health assessments and challenges, the outcome of the initiative so far has been positive.
Rachel provided an insight into some of the results they have seen and hopes that there will be a continued focus on driver wellbeing in order to see the sustainable benefits. As with any sedentary role, whether it be drivers or office-based employees, it is vital to invest in the health and wellbeing of people.
This raised a key point in the discussion – that safety professionals want to put people first and so a business’s ethos should always be focused on ‘people’. The discussion shifted towards personal experience for many of the attendees, highlighting experiences they have had around their own teams and responses to safety initiatives such as this.
Chris Rowlands of the HSE Recruitment Network presented on the topic of the HSE employment market and how as a prospective candidate, your suitability and capability is measured. With more than 11 years’ experience of recruiting within the health and safety sector, Chris provides a unique insight into emerging recruitment trends and how best to market yourself as a HSE professional.
As Chris encouraged the group to focus on personal development and experience opposed to qualifications, it was evident that the majority of attendees agreed. The group expressed frustrations at the importance placed upon qualifications, on a personal level as well as acting hiring managers within their businesses. The need for professional qualifications is more than necessary in a HSE role, but the discussion highlighted that it does not necessarily deem you to be the best person for a position.
The presentation offered valuable information about alternative employment options such as contract and overseas work, as well as highlighting the most lucrative HSE markets. However, throughout Chris’s presentation, the conversation consistently returned to issues around diversity and wellbeing. These are more prominent concerns than ever within health and safety, highlighted by the rise in diversity and inclusion hires, as well as occupational health and wellbeing initiatives similar to that carried out by PepsiCo.
The event was a great success, with a diverse group of health and safety professionals sharing their experiences and ideas. The HSE Recruitment Network look forward to attending more Women in Health and Safety Forum events and continuing to be involved in those taking place in the Midlands.
Danielle Stallard is a specialist HSE recruiter within the logistics, transport and retail markets and has three years’ experience in the recruitment industry. She has built a comprehensive network since joining The HSE Recruitment Network in early 2015, working with industry leading businesses and successfully delivering on a range of assignments, from SHEQ Manager to Safety Director. Danielle regularly contributes to online publications and attends industry leading events.