Find out more about HSE People Panel Member Kelvin Blackburn

The HSE People Panel is made up of specialists across different areas who have volunteered to share their insight and experience with the HSE People network

How did you get started in the industry?

I always had a passion for safety from my earlier career days in the Royal Navy.  My initial experiences were in a technical and operational safety capacity on board Nuclear Submarines.  Training at sea and in the onshore simulators with emergency scenario’s, recovery and damage control on the reactor and associated systems. Relying on the highly trained people to follow the laid down emergency procedures which ensured of the safe operation of plant and equipment, which had been designed and risk assessed for all potential outcomes. This gave me a great grounding in HAZOP, HAZID and failure mode analysis in complex engineering systems.

After a High Potential Incident on a platform I was working on, there was a review of the OSH department function and provision within the organisation.  I had been vocal in my challenges to people regarding their actions and behaviours and was never frightened to speak up and question unsafe acts, whilst striving to educate and pass on best practice and knowledge. Having worked as a control of work / permit to work Area Authority technician along with my technical, operational and maintenance background, I was always very aware of specific hazards applicable to various different work activities.  If I didn’t, I learnt it and asked questions of people who did.

As I already had health and safety qualifications and a good understanding of offshore regulations, I was interviewed, then offered the opportunity to carry out the function offshore on a production platform on a probationary period.

Right place at the right time I suppose.

Do you have a motto or saying that you live by?

‘Do things safely because you want to, not because you have to’

Who or what inspires you?

Seeing a change in thinking of the people I am employed to protect in the workplace.  Empowering individuals through interaction and training, to take responsibility of safety in their vicinity and own working areas.

Self development and learning personally, allows me to pass on added knowledge to others.  The only barrier to personal and professional growth is in our minds.  We have so much information available to us, there should be no excuses to not understanding or learning aspects which directly affect ourselves, our loved ones, friends, coleageues and our environment. Sharing lessons learned and knowledge really does save lives.

If you could only eat one meal for the rest of your life, what would it be?

It would have to be spicy Asian food.

What advice would you give to someone looking to getting started in the industry?

It is easier to get a job if you are already in the industry. It may be easier to initially gain employment through a trade or profession. Get your head in the books and learn about petrochemicals and hydrocarbon processing. Try and get similar employment in high hazard industries where you can relate a lot of the activities across various sectors.

There are some great courses available such as NEBOSH technical Certificate in Oil and Gas and the NEBOSH Process Safety Management Certificate. These will give you baseline knowledge, however noting is better than being involved daily in the tasks.

Learn about Major Accident Hazards and more specifically historic Major Accidents, which have impacted the oil and gas sector offshore, such as: Piper Alpha, Mumbai High, Macondo.  Understanding the failures and changes in legislation as a result of these will equip you with the tools to identify and question things when you get into a position offshore.

Always be real and approachable. This builds trust and allows you gain a better understanding of the way of things within your organisation.

How do you unwind and relax?

I like to stay fit and active. I visit the gym 5 times a week when at home and daily each day at 0500 when offshore. Playing with my children in the garden and finally reading a good book or educational paper to stretch the mind.

Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

I would love to be more heavily involved technical safety consulting and health and additionally Health and safety training. Ideally I would love to set up a consultancy offering these services, where I can use my experiences and knowledge to deliver messages to a greater audience.

Would you recommend a career in the HSE industry?

Absolutely! There is no better feeling knowing you are making a difference to peoples welfare and safety. It is great when you get thanks for speaking up and raising concerns from management and the workforce, or when you deliver training to personnel and you see that light bulb moment where the reasoning makes sense.  It is highly rewarding in personal and professional satisfaction, although it is sometimes difficult to measure any tangible achievements which we make.

Thank you for your time Kelvin, it’s great to know a bit more about you. If you have a question you would like to ask Brendon or another member of the HSE People Panel let us know