In the first of a short series of blogs, our Managing Director, Andrew Ashford explains what it takes to become a health and safety expert.
Black Belt in Health and Safety
Since I was a young teenager, I’ve practised the sport of Judo. This requires a lot of practice to get right. As my skills improved I moved through the grades, starting as a lowly but enthusiastic white belt and ending up as an ‘expert’ with the coveted black belt.
Among the many things that Judo has taught me is the fact that nothing comes without hard work and application – if
you go through the
motions and repeat the same thing day-in-day-out you’ll never move forward. Therefore, its crucial to evaluate mistakes, reflect on what you have done well and use this new-found knowledge to improve, being ever mindful that there is no such thing as perfection.
The skills that I learnt as a young (latterly not so young) judoka have served me well in life. One way in which this has been seen is in my development of a career in health and safety.
White and Yellow Belts
In judo, its normal to do a few sessions to see if its for you and to learn the basics, most important of which is how to fall as failures will be many and frequent in the early days. An equivalent idea exists in the world of safety. The 4 day IOSH ‘Managing safely’ course lets people know what safety and health is all about. It doesn’t lead to the ability to advise but its a great first step on that road, plus its an ideal course for supervisors who need to know the reality of managing safety in the workplace, not the myths. Indeed, I know several ‘experts’ who started out by doing a simple 4 day course – they just kept going, applied themselves, learnt more, failed, succeeded and eventually got there.
I came to safety from an engineering background, so knew a little of the basics of how to keep myself safe. Put crudely, I could enter a workplace and not get killed. I knew nothing of the real principles of safety management nor was I really aware of the true philosophy behind safety. But I was keen to learn.
My introduction to the world of safety came with the NEBOSH Certificate course. What an eye opener! Just like that young lad who had first set foot on a judo mat, I quickly learned how little I knew and that I was nowhere near ready to advise or manage real world safety issues. But I was keen to learn.
In those first few weeks doing the ‘Certificate’ I learnt about law, basic management systems, safe systems of work and loads of hazards and how to control them. The mass of information surprised me but I worked hard and duly passed my exams. With the award of the NEBOSH Certificate came the realisation that there was a whole world of information and best practice out there, about which I knew very little. Having the Certificate in no way made me an expert, but I did at least realise that I had a lot to learn and that I would need to apply myself through study and practice if I was ever to become an expert with the competence to advise others. My ‘keeness’ to learn was still there.
Check back for the second in this short series – progressing to ‘Green belt in safety’.
Want to learn more about the basics of health and safety? Enrol on one of our ‘IOSH Managing Safely’ courses. Just follow the link to ‘IOSH Managing Safely’, to the right of this page.