Speaking with Angels: What it means to be a RoSPA Guardian Angel Award winner

Guardian_Angel_Advert2For over fifty years, the RoSPA Occupational Health and Safety Awards have honoured organisations from around the world who have strived for the highest standards in safety. In 2014, however, they went a step further. The RoSPA Guardian Angel Award recognises those who have gone ‘above and beyond’ to improve the safety of others, often by sacrificing their own time and energy to change lives and improve awareness. Now that nominations are open for this year’s Guardian Angel Awards, we thought we’d bring you an exclusive insight into what it feels like to receive this unique honour, by speaking to a selection of last year’s winners from a range of different backgrounds…



safety-manager-1About: As Health and Safety Manager at NIS, Richard is a firm believer that planting the seeds of health and safety in young children’s minds will lead to a healthier safer workforce in the future. With this in mind, Richard undertakes many activities outside working hours, for example conducting practice interviews for high school students and running science workshops on Saturdays. He personally conducts all safety inductions for new starters and encourages people to take part in initiatives to improve safety culture, encouraging all employees through toolbox talks to ‘bring safety home.’

In his own words: ‘I was completely over the moon when I realised I was a RoSPA Guardian Angel Award winner. It was a total surprise to me on the night, and to tell the truth it was very moving. Winning has certainly raised the profile of safety within our business and helped publicise our hard work. Still, the real reward is the fact I am helping others to be safe.’

Advice for others: ‘To be a health and safety ‘champion’, you need to be prepared to go that little bit further, remaining positive and enthusiastic at all times. Safety people have a reputation for being boring stiffs with a clip board – but this doesn’t have to be the case! Keep changing the way you put your messages across, and use jokes to make it fun. Above all, show that you care – not just about the people you’re working with, but also for their families. Remember, you’re making a real difference to people’s lives.’



occupational-health-nurse-1About: As a qualified and experienced occupational health nurse, Elaine was nominated for her commitment to ‘go the extra mile.’ For example, although her role is to undertake statutory health surveillance, she always makes time to support employees with health issues that are not work related, and runs proactive good-health campaigns. She has arranged ‘well man’ and ‘well women’ clinics, making sure she continues to support anyone who was diagnosed with health concerns. This ‘people first’ approach to safety, combined with a ‘no-nonsense’ attitude made it natural that Elaine should be nominated for a Guardian Angel award.

In her own words: ‘I felt overwhelmed when the award was announced. Then, as the occasion sunk in, I felt very proud to be recognised in front of my peers for all my efforts. Since the award, I feel an extra motivation to work even harder to provide an excellent service.’

Advice for others: ‘The most important qualities for this job are compassion, dedication and commitment. You should aim to involve as many people as possible in your work, as getting ‘buy in’ from everyone is key to creating and supporting a good safety culture. Finally, it’s important to network in order to gain advice and guidance. Talk to other people in the profession, attend IOSH branch meetings, chat on health and safety forums – and of course attend the RoSPA Awards!’



health-safety-advisor-2About: After sustaining a serious back injury, John was left housebound for two and a half years. However, rather than looking at this as a setback in his life, he saw this as a new opportunity. After self-funding his way through the NEBOSH General Certificate and Diploma in Occupational Health and Safety Management, he returned to work, eventually joining FMC Technologies as their Health & Safety Adviser and completing a BA in Occupational Health and Safety Management. John ‘lives and breathes’ health and safety and his dedication to protecting employees in the workplace is second to none. In addition to this, John has established his own website, which is visited by over 100,000 HSE professionals and beginners a month – allowing him to continue sharing his experience with the wider safety community.

In his own words: ‘I felt honoured, humbled, surprised, grateful, happy, proud and awesome! I don’t do my job to receive awards, so when my work is recognised it’s very special to know there’s value in what I do. Winning a RoSPA Guardian Angel Award has given me a great deal of confidence to carry on doing what I’m doing, knowing I’m making a difference.’

Advice for others: ‘If you work with passion, integrity and believe in your purpose to help and protect people from harm, everything will fall into place. If you’re looking to implement change but aren’t sure where to start, pick something which needs improving, something small enough that it can be completed in a reasonable timescale and something which will get people talking. This will help spread the word that health and safety management doesn’t need to be a hindrance. Then pick a new challenge and start again! As long as there are improvements, even small ones, people will talk and the message will filter through over time.’



campaigner-kenyan-coffee-2About: In October 2010, Joy tragically lost her 17-month-old daughter, Leah, after she became entangled in a looped blind cord in her bedroom. Like so many other parents, she had no idea that the blind in her child’s bedroom posed a risk. In the face of this unspeakable personal tragedy, however, Joy has gone on to become a dedicated campaigner, helping to educate millions of families across the UK about the dangers of window blind cords. As the key force behind RoSPA’s Blind Cord Safety Campaign, she has ushered in changes to the way that ALL window furnishings across the EU are made and sold. Her commitment to raising awareness has led to her giving numerous appearances on television, and countless press and radio interviews. In recent months, even with a new baby to care for, Joy has been as committed as ever to publicly promoting awareness.

In her own words: ‘When I received a phone call to say I had been nominated for a RoSPA Guardian Angel Award I was out walking and I felt like I had a huge grin across my face. All I thought of was “I am just a parent. Yes we had a terrible tragedy, but an award? Surely anyone in the same situation would do the same.” I was honoured to be given the Archangel Award and was amazed at the standing ovation I received. This is my first award and it has pride of place in our living room. Each time I look at it, opposite there is a photo of Leah smiling. I would like to think that she was proud too and that her death has prevented other families from going through the same heartache.

Advice for others: ’When I start something I tend to carry on to the end. Even though new blind standards and regulations have been brought into force for manufacturers and fitters to adhere to, there is still more to do. Parents and grandparents who already have blinds in their homes still need to be educated on the dangers.’


Nominate your RoSPA Guardian Angel

If you know of someone with an inspirational story or someone who has worked tirelessly to improve the safety of those around them – whether they are a colleague, neighbour, friend or member of the community – we’d like to hear from you. Why not nominate them as a Guardian Angel and show them just how much they are appreciated.

 For more expert analysis, advice and tips, don’t forget to sign up to SafetyMatters, RoSPA’s free fortnightly newsletter, and receive our collection of free original e-books!

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