For those working in Gulf countries, the benefits NEBOSH qualifications bring are endless!

Case Study: Sami Ullah - National Petroleum Construction Company (NPCC)

We spoke to Sami Ullah, a Senior HSE trainer for National Petroleum Construction Company (NPCC) about his career, the benefits of volunteering and his lifelong learning ethos. Sami also shares his three top tips for anyone wanting to build a career in health and safety.

You seem to have decided that health and safety was the career for you very early on. Can you explain what attracted you to the profession?
My health and safety career began shortly after I completed my MBA. I had been recruited into an accountancy role, but during my first week of employment, I was asked to switch to a field officer role due to a shortage of onsite safety staff. After a month in the post, I realised I had discovered my perfect role by accident! I found it so rewarding to support workers' health and well-being so they could return home safely to their families at the end of each shift.

I researched careers in health and safety and saw that following this path offered many rewards. There is the personal satisfaction that comes from knowing that your work protects others, there are excellent opportunities for development and progression, and the earnings potential makes it an attractive choice too. I feel fortunate that a twist of fate led me to health and safety so early in my career.

I understand you had worked in health and safety for a few years before deciding to take the NEBOSH International General Certificate in 2013.
Most of the roles I held prior to taking the NEBOSH International General Certificate were temporary. I decided to take the qualification after realising that most permanent HSE positions in established organisations required a recognised health and safety qualification. I signed up, studied hard, and passed with credit on my first attempt.

Why did you choose the NEBOSH International General Certificate in particular?
I saw it as an essential step that would support my aspiration to build a long and successful HSE career.

The NEBOSH International General Certificate is the first choice among safety professionals and recruiters here in the Gulf. It is known to provide the knowledge and skills that health and safety professionals need. Because of this, I didn't spend much time considering alternatives!

For those working in Gulf countries, the benefits NEBOSH qualifications bring are endless. Achieving a NEBOSH qualification improves job security, enhances job prospects, opens new career paths, and satisfies recruiters who are looking for competent candidates. It’s a globally respected qualification that has helped me achieve the success I was hoping for when I signed up.

You went on to complete the NEBOSH International Diploma in 2015. Can you explain why you chose this qualification?
After completing the NEBOSH International General Certificate, I wanted to take a higher level qualification. I chose the NEBOSH International Diploma because I feel it is the leading qualification for international health and safety professionals.

The syllabus content is based on international standards and best practice and is relevant to all sectors. This broad approach added to its appeal, as it made moving between countries and industries possible, giving me more choice and opportunity. It wasn’t an easy qualification to achieve. To be successful required determination and hard work, but I feel it is the best investment any professional can make.

As well as giving me confidence and skills that help me perform as a safety professional, my NEBOSH International Diploma supported other achievements too. I gained CertIOSH status, I used it to be accepted onto other higher education courses and became a successful tutor for a range of organisations including NEBOSH and BCSP.

You have worked as a senior HSE trainer for NPCC since 2018. Can you tell us a little bit about the company?
NPCC was established in 1973. NPCC’s dynamic growth, past achievements, and new facilities have transformed it into a major international Engineering, Procurement and Construction contractor. The company has a remarkable track record for design and engineering, procurement, project management, fabrication, installation, and commissioning of a number of Offshore Wellhead & Process Platforms, Subsea Pipelines & Onshore projects.

Can you tell us about your role and responsibilities at NPCC
As a senior safety trainer I am responsible for managing all aspects of training from analysing needs, specifying requirements, rolling out training and evaluating its effectiveness. I assist in the development of mandatory HSE training matrices for employees and contractors and maintain a documented inventory of what has been delivered, including specifications. I also support the preparation and implementation of HSE operational plans by providing professional advice. I really enjoy my role, which utilises all of the skills I have gained over the last ten+ years in health and safety and learning and development.

Developing and delivering training is something you have done throughout your career. Is this something you particularly enjoy?
Delivering training means I can help others enhance their knowledge and work safely. I love coaching people, allaying any concerns, and being available if they have questions. The difference this can make is a source of great satisfaction and pride for me.

How do you establish what people need, and have any tips to ensure training is effective?
Take the time to clearly define what you want your training to deliver, as this will help you achieve it! Think about the organisation’s needs and what individual team members require. Make the training flexible and accessible and ensure the benefits it will bring are clear to participants. If you can demonstrate that a training programme has leadership support this will help you achieve buy in.

You have a very busy role but still make time to volunteer. Can you tell us about your volunteering and why you do it?
I joined IOSH over six years ago, and have attended and presented many webinars, CPD events, and live seminars since. I was Vice Chair of the IOSH UAE branch in 2019-20 and was elected to this role for a second time in April 2022.

I have been a member of the Pakistan Safety Council (PSC) since its inception in 2010. The organisation aims to raise awareness by providing training and information to avoid illnesses, injuries, and accidents that can occur in a work environment.

I am also an active volunteer and mentor for the Board of Certified Safety Professionals (BCSP) and the Board of Canadian Registered Safety Professionals (BCRSP).
I participate in local and international OH&S groups on platforms such as LinkedIn, Facebook, and WhatsApp. I am always happy to offer advice on job searches, safety suppliers, short and long-term development plans, training, CPD, career enhancement and the selection of academic routes.

I volunteer because I believe it gives me the opportunity to help shape the future of our profession and make workplaces safer places to be.

You have continued your studies since completing your NEBOSH qualifications. What’s next for you in terms of your professional development?
I have so far completed master's degrees in occupational health and safety and business administration, and have nearly completed a third in safety and risk management.

I am currently enrolled on a doctoral course specialising in safety engineering at the University of Petroleum and Energy Studies (UPES) in Dehradun, India.

I have begun to write a book that will consider “Occupational safety from a Muslim perspective". This is a first for me and will require will power but will give me the opportunity to consider what matters most to me.

I believe that learning and development should never end so I am already planning what I will do after these objectives have been achieved.

I want to obtain the Certified Industrial Hygienist (CIH) credential, which would mean I can test the environment for health hazards and determine the level of risk posed.
I also want to achieve Diplomas in sustainability, environmental safety engineering and process safety management.

Alongside these studies, I am constantly working to improve my fluency in spoken and written English.

Looking back on your career to date, what achievements are you most proud of?
I have worked in the Gulf for more than 13 years and the working relationships I have built with professional bodies, external agencies and regulatory bodies here is a source of pride for me.

I am proud of my lifelong learning ethos. I have not been complacent but have invested in my own development to keep my skills and knowledge up to date.
However, the thing I am most proud of is that through my paid work and voluntary activities, I have kept people safe and well, saved businesses from loss, and have helped to prevent the environment from deteriorating. Not many careers allow you to have such an impact.

What tips would you give to those at the start of their health and safety careers?
I suppose my top three tips would be:

  • Be an active part of the health and safety community – doing so will provide opportunities and support. I find it so useful to talk through challenges with my network so I recommend you make connections and build your network. Other professional are a great source of advice and they can also help you identify job openings or new ways to enhance your skills and knowledge.
  • Invest in your learning and development - In the Middle East, competition for HSE jobs is increasing. To be successful you need to have qualifications and credentials from reputable worldwide institutions.
  • Choose which opportunities you pursue carefully - I am fortunate to work for a company that takes safety seriously, which means what I do is valued and well-funded. This helps me have a positive impact which improves my job satisfaction.

Health and Safety is a rewarding career path, that I feel very fortunate to be a part of. If you have similar aspirations and are about to start your journey I wish you well. Make sure you work hard and enjoy it!