The confidence of having the knowledge the NEBOSH Diploma gives you is a big help in making the right decisions and explaining them to others

Case Study: Adam Yates

We spoke to Adam Yates, who told us that he loves being able to influence organisational culture so that people do the safe thing even when nobody is looking.

Adam, you have worked at Reckitt since 2018. Can you tell us a little about the organisation?
Reckitt is home to the world’s leading hygiene, health and nutrition brands. And it’s those brands people would know us by. These include Dettol, Strepsils, Veet, Gaviscon, Nurofen, Durex, Airwick and many more household names. Our brands are the first thing many people reach for when they’re unwell or they want to ensure their homes are clean, hygienic and smell nice!

The original company was formed in 1840 in Hull and is very well known in the city. Reckitt and Sons, as the original business was called, has a long history of corporate social responsibility. The company contributed to many social improvements in the city such as hospital wings and museums - they even built a village of model housing called Garden Village in 1908 to house workers. It is now a FTSE 100 company with a net income of £3.393 billion (2017).

The research and development (R&D) site where I work recently opened a new £105million building containing brand-new state of the art labs and fully refurbished offices.

Your current role within the company is as an EHS advisor. What does this role entail?
I work as part of the facilities team and report to the EHS Manager. The primary purpose of my role is to manage the health and safety of the teams working in the R&D Health Laboratories.

As well as all the usual health and safety activities, such as risk assessments, accident investigation and prevention, training and inductions, I also get to work with the safety representatives for each R&D team. This is one of the most enjoyable parts of my job. The reps and I work together to find ways to build up a safety culture that is based on doing the right thing, even when no one is looking, and getting our colleagues to buy into this.

We have a highly educated and highly motivated work force at Reckitt and it’s very much a place where safety is everyone’s responsibility. My role is predominantly guiding and advising the safety and wider teams on what they need to do to identify the hazards and risks in their areas and how we can find the best way to manage them.

How and when did you start to pick up more health and safety responsibilities?
I spent 20 years working in manufacturing for a global company that took health and safety very seriously and saw first-hand the benefits that come from achieving a strong safety culture. When I was made redundant, I went to work for a small engineering company as a Continuous Improvement Manager. When the organisation’s Health and Safety Manager retired, I was asked to take on this role. My employers felt I was a good fit because I had experience of good health and safety, and many of the skills I had gained from my Lean Manufacturing and Continuous Improvement responsibilities were relevant and transferable.

You completed your NEBOSH National Diploma in Environmental Management in 2020. Why did you take this qualification? Did you enjoy the course?
The qualification was part of the Health and Safety and Environmental Management Degree course I started in 2017. I really enjoyed the Environmental part of the course as the previous two years had been focused on health and safety so it was a welcome change. I relished the opportunity to study a new subject, especially as it was one that I didn’t cover in my day job. It was interesting to learn about the environmental cycles, legislation and what we can do to protect it.

How has the qualification benefitted you since you completed it?
The knowledge obtained is a benefit on a personal level as it has given me a greater understanding of the impacts of industry and humans on the environment. I have also started to look at ways I can put this knowledge to use in my workplace.

Reckitt are known for many of their brands; Dettol, Finish, Durex to name a few. They are also known for pursuing and promoting hygiene, wellness, and nourishment. Could you describe some of Reckitt’s key initiatives?
On the Hull Research and Development site where I work the Science and Innovation Centre opened in 2019, with many environmental systems designed in from the very beginning to help to lessen the site’s environmental impact. A vast array of photovoltaic (PV) cells, otherwise known as solar panels, occupy most of the available roof space, covering a total of 1,000 sqm. This solar PV array is predicted to generate up to 120,000 kilowatt hours of electricity annually, saving the equivalent of up to 62 tonnes of carbon each year.

Rainwater harvesting is another key element in achieving the low energy, sustainable and renewable features of the building design, by limiting the consumption of mains cold water. The rainwater is gathered throughout the centre and runs into a 20,000-litre central storage tank. A pumping system then delivers the stored rainwater to toilet fittings, where it is used for flushing.

Heat is reclaimed by using combined heat and energy sources, and the building employs highly efficient condenser-type boilers, as well as reverse cycle heat pumps that provide low-grade underfloor heating and cooling. Other sustainable features include a carbon monoxide sensing system, which optimises the amount of ventilation required, and energy saving features on all fans and pumps.

Recently the company has been heavily involved with the Hull OH Yes Net Zero campaign which aims to reduce the Humber region’s CO2 emissions. I got involved with the project and gave a testimonial about my cycle commute into work and was briefly famous on posters around the city!

In addition to our efforts locally to minimise the impact of our site operations, Reckitt R&D employees invest a lot of time and effort in trying to reduce the environmental impacts of supplying and using the products we manufacture. From responsible sourcing of raw materials to constantly evolving our packaging to minimise waste and increasing the recyclability of the product waste. As an example one of our more recent successes is the launch of paper-based packaging for our Finish dishwasher tablets to replace the plastic pouches most other manufacturers still use.

What do you enjoy most about being a health and safety professional?
The thing I enjoy most about my job is the opportunity to have an impact on the organisation’s culture so that people do the safe thing even when no one is checking. The obvious things like accident prevention, risk mitigation etc are all important, but I enjoy working with the teams on site to build on our policy that safety is everybody’s responsibility.

What would be your advice be to anyone at the start of their health and safety career?
To use your past experiences and judgement – if something looks unsafe it usually is – and listen to the people you are working with to try and understand their safety concerns.

Build up a network of safety professionals to offer you help and advice and don’t think you have all the answers. Try to get your professional training under way early such as your General Certificate, and when you feel you have enough experience, move on to your Diploma. The confidence of having the knowledge the NEBOSH Diploma gives you is a big help in making the right decisions and explaining them to others.