Women in Health and Safety event: ‘Working at height affected the audience in a variety of ways’
SHP catches up with Angelina Sooren, Group HSEQ and Compliance Director at Churchill, and finds out about the working at height networking event she hosted recently.
Women in Health and Safety is a thriving network of people who support gender equality and want to see women flourish in our profession. One of its recent events focused on working from height and contractor management.
Michelle Yorke, One of the speakers at the event, who is Environmental Health Officer at City Of London, commented: “A good workplace health and safety culture is vital to instilling safer working practices for all workers and contractors. This applies to work at height where we see that the communication and perception of genuine risk is key to reducing incidence of falls. Events such as Reaching New Heights provide an excellent forum for health and safety professionals to collaborate, share good practice and raise awareness of safe working solutions.”
Joshua Payne, Managing Director at 3 Spires Safety, added: “What made this event particularly interesting was working at height affected the audience in a variety of ways such as different scopes of work, building design access strategies and legal parameters.
“The event turned out to be an open forum in which real problems were highlighted and measured against practicable control measures, this was further backed up by allowing the events participants the experience of using the rope access equipment, fall arrest and fall restraint PPE through the watchful eye of qualified trainers which reinforced a natural respect for the complexities of the working at height sector.”
Craig Deamer, Group Health and Safety Director at JV Price, said: “One of the most importance areas that I personally felt was identified and captured within the discussions, was the importance of getting it right the first time, understanding the systems on site, whether they are the fit for purpose, and how effective they are in preventing or minimising working at height accidents and incidents.”
It was the first time that Susan Corrin, from the Football Association, had attended a Women in Health & Safety. She said: “It was superbly organised and provided an excellent opportunity to gain skills and network with likeminded safety professionals.
“The speakers were very knowledgeable and the practical opportunities to use the rope access systems were great. I gained a much greater awareness of the competency required by those who carry out activities requiring rope access, together with the level of competency required by those responsible for signing off risk assessments and method statements.”
Angelina Sooren joined Churchill in 2011 with a particular focus on integrating management systems and gaining certification for ISO:9001, ISO:14001 and OHSAS:18001 while taking the company on a journey to improve its safety culture.
The group has rapidly grown over the last six-and-a-half years and there have been several acquisitions, which required integrating. The company now employs over 12,000 staff and has an established HSEQ department with regional advisors placed across the country.
Angelina’s role is to direct the business and its directors towards the vision of a safety and compliant organisation. Churchill provides a mixture of facilities management services to clients, ranging from cleaning, security and environmental compliance.
“My team focus on all areas of systems and operational safety management,” said Angelina.
“The FM industry is challenging; however, it is a fantastic opportunity to problem solve and wear many hats, no day is ever the same.”
You have recently been admitted to the Freedom of the City of London, how did that come about and what does it involve?
Angelina Sooren (AS): “We have been working with the City of London for a couple of years now. I felt that I needed support from an external party, regarding some of our key policies and procedures. I wanted some assurance for our business about the value and the weight in which our practices and key documentation across the business could support. For me it is key to take the partnership approach to working with clients and all authorities associated, my approach to safety and risk management is to work collaboratively in order to protect clients, contractors, members of the public.”
“I was given the opportunity to work with the City of London the opportunity arose to be nominated. I was delighted to hear news that I had been granted Freedom. I can now walk sheep across London!”
How did you feel when you were presented with the accolade?
(AS): “Absolutely overwhelmed, I am honoured to be associated with the City of London. The Freedom has driven my passion for safety even further, we can all make our mark as practitioners to make work environments safe and continue to drive initiatives to progress occupational health and safety.
“I would like to be remembered by those with whom I interact and work with as someone who is keen to make a positive change. I have to stop my mother from telling everyone we meet!”
How will the award benefit Churchill as a business?
(AS): “I believe that this has given the opportunity for our clients and members of the public to see that Churchill has supported my decision to work with the City of London and that they appreciate that businesses need to adopt a partnership approach with our clients.
What made you want to become a part of the Women in Health & Safety Panel?
(AS): “A couple of years ago I wrote a blog on LinkedIn based on breaking the cliché mould when it came to safety practitioners. I wanted to bring some fun to safety meet-ups and suggested an informal meet-up and this was well received. I also wanted to lead safety within the FM industry and network with others that I can learn from.
“So far this has been a success, we have successfully run events together to include speed networking to introduce mentors with mentees. I was also disappointed to learn that I was one of our 29% of female safety practitioners! I believe that more needs to be done at an earlier stage within career planning within schools and colleges to get the message across that the door is open to women.”
What do you aim to bring to the panel this year?
(AS): “I am looking to get physical. I want to get others engaged in physical activities to combine the theory of safety with the practical. Accidents happen because of a sequence of events, I seek to place practitioners (male and female) under the spotlight to see how they may react.
“I also want to encourage women to get involved in activities that historically perceived to be a male dominated activity. I want to empower women to achieve in our field of safety.”