My Day in the life of a HSE Professional

by Charlotte Stokes

Last week I was on the phone to a candidate of mine and I told him “I won’t be in the office tomorrow, as I’m out on sites all day.” After a long pause he replied “But I thought you were a recruiter!?”

 

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This made me laugh. Although, yes I am a recruiter; and it’s pretty out of the ordinary to be getting some boots on and going on a construction site; but I wanted to really absorb the environment and see with my own eyes what its like for a Health and Safety professional on site.

I started my day by putting on all my PPE (and before you say it, the goggles were in my other hand, but they ruined this classy photo). Once we had on all the gear, we were given a thorough induction before setting on to the site. Our lovely tour guide (A.K.A Lester the HSE Manager at Durkan) told us all about the challenges the site faces, from both a safety point of view and an overall project overview.

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Every where I looked there was someone doing a different job; there were so many different trades on site. I was told at full capacity they could have 300 people on site, and one HSE Manger. This really made me realise that this is job is far harder than I thought! You definitely need to have the ‘buy in’ from the site staff, and support from the supervisors and site manager is crucial. Without their support, there is no way you could ensure everyone is sticking to safety practices. This really backed up why we at HSE believe attitude is the biggest skill in Health and Safety, you can learn about Health and Safety legislation and procedures, but attitude and ability to engage is much more innate. If you can engage staff and get them to trust and respect you then half the battle is won, the teaching part is (in theory) the easy bit.

During our site tour I was very aware that there were probably lots of staff wondering why there were two suited and booted people wandering around. This certainly would have been a very bad time to fall over! So treading carefully, we walked all around the site. Once on the seventh floor, Lester says “right it’s just up this ladder to the roof”. James and I laughed, then quickly realised he was serious. So up the ladder we went, (slightly terrifying), but what a view!

Next was a visit to the site next door which is still in its infancy. The team at Durkan are currently preparing the site for the foundations, before site workers from a near by project will transferred over to continue the work. This is great for the company from a Safety perspective as most of the site staff will be familiar to their practises and will require fewer inductions; this allows the Safety team to focus more on raising standards across the site.

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I can’t praise Lester enough for the insight he was able to give us on the struggles he faces, and where he sees the future of Safety. For me as a recruiter its so valuable to be able to experience a taste of the roles I’m recruiting for, I feel I have such a better understanding of what happens on site and the challenges that Health and Safety professionals face on a daily basis.

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On my way out to our last site visit with Wates, at the end of the day I spotted a sign underneath a mirror (so apologies for the vain selfie). The sign was placed on the way out from the wellbeing blocks, just before you head on to site. I thought this was very impactful; such a simple yet effective message that I hope everyone takes on board. For me it was great to see that positive and thought provoking Safety messages were everywhere (not just warning signs) that could potentially stop someone from cutting corners and help protect them from harm. I hope that every site has this ethos as Health and Safety is changing every day. It really is becoming apparent that changing attitudes and behaviours towards safety is where the future of safety is heading.

What I learned on ‘my big day out’ is how challenging yet crucial the Health and Safety role is. It’s a big responsibility to have, to be the person responsible for so many people’s safety and well-being. Although I’ve had a lot of fun taking silly selfies and climbing up ladders, I feel that I now have a real appreciation for the work that goes into keeping everyone safe.

As a specialist construction recruiter for the Health and Safety industry, it’s been invaluable getting a insight into what my candidates experience on a daily basis, as well as an understanding of what my clients look for in a Safety professional. I look forward to seeing more sites in the future, and understanding each of my clients site culture. If you have space for a little tag along on your next site visit, I’d be happy to whip out the PPE again!

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