In this new series we ask those who’ve ‘made it’ in their health and safety careers to share their tips and reveal their secrets. This month it’s Dawn Ward, Assistant Director of Health and Safety at South & City College Birmingham and all round health and safety superhero…
You might get mad – just don’t go crazy…
A career in Health and Safety will give you plenty of things to get irate about – especially when the people you are trying to help don’t want to listen! My advice for keeping sane is to stay calm and professional at all times; sometimes it’s better to walk away and deal with an issue later on if it means avoiding a head-on conflict. Above all you need to be positive and proactive about Health and Safety – remember, it’s your job to make a difference.
Never rest on your laurels
Even once you are fully qualified, it’s vital to continue to take qualifications and attend training to keep yourself abreast of changes in the industry. Even though I’ve completed my NEBOSH National Diploma with RoSPA, I still undertake regular training to ensure I have the tools I need to provide maximum support to my colleagues.
When I first started out in this role it took me a while to realise it’s okay not to know everything – in fact, it makes you normal! However, regular training goes a long way to fill the gaps in your knowledge, and ongoing professional development is essential if you’re looking to succeed in Health and Safety.
Without a doubt the biggest challenge so far has been implementing a Health and Safety policy in an organisation where a team had previously been in existence – especially now the responsibility for Health and Safety is shared with everyone. As a result, I’ve had to work hard to define my role in the company, establishing clear boundaries as to what is expected of a Health and Safety manager, as well as what is expected from every other employee. It might sound cheesy, but when it comes to Health and Safety, there really is no ‘I’ in Team!
Wear your values on your sleeve
For us, becoming a RoSPA member was a way of demonstrating to everybody both inside and outside the college our commitment to health and safety. This is driven by the Principal, Mike Hopkins, and then cascaded throughout the organisation. It might be small, but that little red badge sends out a clear message that we take our responsibilities seriously.
‘If you say you can or you can’t, you’re right either way’
Henry Ford said that, and I really couldn’t agree more. The number one thing I look for in a candidate is positive attitude – Health and Safety is a people driven role and you need the right outlook to succeed. This means the ability to work as part of a team is vital, as you’ll inevitably be working with people from all walks of life. You need to do your best to get along with people who might be negative, or view you as a ‘busy-body’!
Finally, a level head and a calm disposition are probably the greatest weapons in your professional armoury – if all else fails, be prepared to take a deep breath and count to ten!
When people think of glamour they don’t automatically think of Health and Safety
Nevertheless, there have been some genuinely glamorous moments in my career – not least my recent Commended Award in the Education & Training Services Sector at the RoSPA Occupational Health & Safety Awards. Not only was it fantastic to gain recognition for all the hard work and effort my organisation has put in over the last year and meet other industry high-fliers, it was also chance to hob-nob with genuine stars – including Mr Cat Deeley himself, Patrick Kielty!
Three words that make a good safety manager? Dawn Ann Ward
Seriously though, I would say enthusiasm – because it’s infectious, passion – because you can’t fake it, and finally caring. Of the three, caring is possibly the most important. You need to care about your role, you need to care about your organisation, and most of all you need to care about people. The moment you start seeing people as statistics, it’s over as far as I’m concerned. After all, how can you help people if you don’t care?
RoSPA’s mission statement is something that everybody in the Health and Safety industry is striving towards. As a Health and Safety Manager, I work with the Executive Director of Human Resources and the Principal of the College to ensure that everyone is safe and that all needs are catered for.
Through our innovative schemes and ongoing staff training we aim to provide safety, good health, and a secure working environment in which all members of staff can thrive. What’s more, we do it all with a smile on our faces – at least, most of the time!