What did you want to grow up to be when you were a child?
I was always fascinated with the Military, MI5 & MI6. I genuinely believed I would enter the Army upon leaving school. I did undergo the aptitude tests & initial interviews with my local Army Careers office & got as the weekend fitness & medical assessments, but unfortunately girls & the pub entered my life, so I didn’t pursue it.
How do you think the Coronavirus pandemic has impacted on people’s perception of health and safety?
Until the Coronavirus, I believe a large portion of peoples thinking believed this type of thing was something from a sci-fi novel/film & would never happen despite the warnings from scientists. In some ways its taught people the importance of taking care with hygiene & face coverings, but conversely it has also brought out the worst in people. My fiancé works in Tesco & during the first Lockdown suffered terrible abuse from customers who didn’t want to wear face-coverings, who didn’t want to use the one-way system, who wanted to bulk buy toilet roll but were limited to one pack. To the point where Tesco employed a team of Security Guards (who at night worked on Pubs/Clubs Doors) to protect their staff.
Who would you like to play you in a film of your life?
Rupert Friend, I loved his character in the Series Homeland.
What is your greatest career strength?
The ability to listen to understand & analyse situations pragmatically without compromising my integrity.
What is your favourite tipple (alcoholic/non-alcoholic drink)?
I’m not an alcohol drinker, I’ll perhaps have a few if/when I go on holiday, but I’d say my favourite drink would be a Latte coffee with vanilla syrup.
Where do you see the industry going in the future?
The H&S profession has gotten a bad rap over the last 20 years, its been farcical in some respects, let’s consider kids playing conkers in school ‘we can’t do that because of health & safety rules’, paperwork, checklists, clipboards etc. When something goes wrong ‘let’s create a checklist’, when the checklist doesn’t work ‘let’s create a checklist to check the checklists’. It doesn’t work.
There has been too much red tape & bureaucracy associated with every industry, it has become cumbersome & overbearing & has given H&S a bad name. There have been improvements in the last 3-5 years to simplify things, to eradicate some of the bureaucracy & red tape. This is much needed & well overdue. The profession is changing, the newer people entering the profession are putting more of a focus on education along with performing their day to day roles. Experience vs education is & has always been subject to fierce debate. In my opinion, they go hand in hand, we need both & they’re as important as one another.
in H&S need to be an option, it needs to be made into a viable starting career choice rather than a career choice people find themselves entering after a career in something else. I do believe taking these approaches is going to lead to a better equipped industry.
What is the worst part of your job?
The people in the profession who argue that “their way is best” & feel the need to negatively comment on people’s development choices & directions. The Health & Safety profession still has the stigma of being an Old Boys Club, it needs to be more diverse, it needs to embrace newer people to the industry, more needs to be done to encourage people to the profession.
Do you reply to work emails over the weekend and/or holidays?
Sorry to say I do, switching off is something I do struggle with. I’ll have phases of leaving my work phone in the draw at the office, but it doesn’t last & I find myself working out of hours daily. Getting the balance right is something I must work hard on.
Thank you so much Neil, it’s really great to find out more about you.
Neil is a member of the HSE People Panel offering insight into HSE in the rail industry. If you would like to ask Neil or another panel member a question get in touch firstname.lastname@example.org