Health and Safety is a great career choice as every organisation in every sector around the world needs it!

Case Study: Bruce Bahlaj

NEBOSH Diplomate Bruce Bahlaj is a H&S Manager at Auto Windscreens. In this interview we ask Bruce about his career and NEBOSH journey, and he shares details of some of Auto Windscreens sustainability initiatives.

I understand you have worked for Auto Windscreens since 2002, joining the company as an apprentice. Can you tell us a little bit about:

  • The company?

Auto Windscreens is a leading UK vehicle glass repair, replacement and ADAS calibration provider, which holds the prestigious ServiceMark accreditation from the Institute of Customer Service. With a focus on technical expertise and customer experience, the company offers a seamless claims process through its 24/7 contact centre, digital channels, growing network of company-owned service centres and a mobile fleet which covers the UK. The company head office and dedicated contact centre is based in Chesterfield.

  • The apprenticeship scheme and how it benefited you?

When the opportunity of an apprenticeship came up, I jumped at the chance as I felt it would give me the opportunity to learn new skills and start my career with Auto Windscreens. My apprenticeship enabled me to gain valuable experience under the guidance of a mentor, whilst also completing an NVQ qualification in automotive glazing. When my apprenticeship finished, I became a fully qualified automotive glazing technician.

When did you decide you wanted your career to move into health and safety and how did you make this happen?
At the time, I was part of our technical and training team which trains and develops our windscreen technicians. I’ve always considered myself to be a critical thinker and enjoy problem-solving, so when a job came up in our health and safety team, I went for it. The role was a Health and Safety Advisor, with the opportunity to gain a NEBOSH qualification. I was aware that all businesses require competent health and safety advice, whether it be in-house or external, so I thought this would be a fantastic career move. It also allowed me to contribute to the achievement of Auto Windscreens’ health and safety aims and objectives.

You completed the NEBOSH National General Certificate in Occupational Health and Safety in 2017. Can you explain:

  • Why did you choose this qualification in particular?

In our health and safety team, NEBOSH is regarded as the go-to and most recognisable organisation for health and safety qualifications. Other colleagues had completed the NEBOSH National General Certificate in Occupational Health and Safety and found it useful. I felt it was a great match for my role and duties as a Health and Safety Advisor and would be the first stepping stone to start my career as a health and safety professional.

  • Did you enjoy your studies?

Yes, I’ve always enjoyed learning new things and the NEBOSH National General Certificate in Occupational Health and Safety gave me the skills that I needed to advise people on health and safety matters. The course was very interesting and informative and highlighted how and why businesses should effectively manage health and safety, as well as the benefits of having a good health and safety management system.

  • How did securing this qualification help your career progression?

The NEBOSH National General Certificate in Occupational Health and Safety gave me the skills to identify and manage risks, promote safe working practices, and educate others to help achieve our health and safety performance goals and objectives. It played a key role in developing my competence in health and safety.

You are now a health and safety manager at Auto Windscreens. Can you tell us how long you have held this position and what the role entails?

I have been the Health and Safety Manager at Auto Windscreens for around six years now. My role involves maintaining our integrated management system for our three ISO standards, facilitating external audits, risk assessment creation and review and advising our senior management team on all aspects of health and safety which is done by reporting on our key performance indicators and reports. My goal is to reduce risk by implementing control measures to reduce injury and ill health to both colleagues, customers, suppliers, and members of the public.

After 18 months of hard work, you have just completed your NEBOSH Level 6 National Diploma for Occupational Health and Safety Management Professionals. Congratulations! Can you tell us:

  • Why you choose to complete this qualification?

For me, undertaking the NEBOSH Level 6 National Diploma for Occupational Health and Safety Management Professionals after the NEBOSH National General Certificate in Occupational Health and Safety just made sense. It allowed me to increase my knowledge and skills of health and safety management and further improve our organisation’s practises. It is a higher-level, well-regarded qualification and I felt that it was the natural next step for my career.

  • How you found it?

Without a doubt, the course was challenging, especially for subjects that I had less practical experience of. Planning my study time each week and sticking to it was important for me in juggling workloads and priorities, as well as family life! The course isn’t just about health and safety risks, it’s about leadership, communication and managing change, which are skills that are beneficial to any role. One of the most interesting aspects of the course for me was effective communication, which involved learning how communication is delivered and received by others.

  • Any changes you have experienced since achieving the qualification?

My confidence in managing and advising others on health and safety has increased since completing the course. I feel my input is valued even more when making decisions and recommendations, and my communication and leadership skills have improved, too. Throughout the course, as I learned new skills, I was continually changing or enhancing what we already had in place at work, displaying continual improvement.

Auto Windscreens seem to be very forward thinking in its approach to sustainability. Can you tell us about any of the initiatives that are part of the organisation’s desire to create a Clearly Sustainable Future?

SBTi targets validated – Auto Windscreens near and long-term science-based greenhouse gas emissions reduction targets have been approved by Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi), reinforcing our commitment to environmental responsibility. Having our targets officially approved is a significant milestone, a testament to our commitment to sustainability, and a reflection of the valuable support and collaboration we have received from our partners and suppliers. We’ll be looking to encourage others to embark on this crucial journey in 2024.

Electric vehicle car fleet - Our target was to increase the number of electric vehicles in our company car fleet by 40% by the end of 2023. We exceeded this by 12%, saving more than 2 tonnes of CO2 by moving over from petrol and diesel. We are continuing to make this switch and also trial and research alternative fuels for our van fleet.

Other environmental initiatives include:

  • Rolling out the installation of LED lighting, which was completed at 21% of sites in 2023.
  • Changing our gas supply to a renewable source, which will be introduced in October.
  • Delivering ESG workshops to more than 200 head office staff and network managers.
  • Appointing colleague engagement ambassadors to embed our ESG culture internally.
  • Offsetting 60kg of CO2 because of our uniform recycling scheme.

DEI&B – we have established a Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging initiative, which now has 36 champions. It’s employee-led and consists of five network groups focusing on Race & Ethnicity, Women, LGBTQ+, Disability and Family & Carers. The champions are passionate about engaging with colleagues throughout the year and sharing ideas so we can continue to make our Group a more inclusive place to work.

Are there any specific risks that are faced by your colleagues that you/Auto Windscreens have tackled in new or innovative ways?
Manual handling and vehicle safety are big risks and focuses for us. We have introduced digital software that managers can use to carry out site and equipment inspections as well as a new training platform for them to learn new health and safety skills. I have always regarded training as an integral part of any role and believe that if I can gain relevant knowledge in health and safety, understanding the risks and consequences of not managing it properly, then so can anyone.

What’s next for you in terms of your professional development?
I want to upgrade my IOSH membership so will continue to maintain my CPD. I will go for CertIOSH but longer-term I wish to become a chartered member through further training and experience.

What do you enjoy most about being a health and safety professional?
Continual improvement is what I enjoy most about my role. For me this is what a good health and safety management system is all about. We need to review what we have in place to see if it is still relevant and if it can be improved to reduce injury and ill health, whether it be enhancing our management reports or updating training material.

What achievement are you most proud of?
Without a doubt, passing my NEBOSH Level 6 National Diploma for Occupational Health and Safety Management Professionals is my biggest achievement. When I started my career with Auto Windscreens in 2002, I never envisaged it would lead to a health and safety role, let alone a management position.

What would your advice be to anyone who aspires to make health and safety their career?
Being a health and safety professional is highly rewarding. We can make a positive impact on people’s health, safety, and wellbeing at work, ensuring they can return home safely at the end of each day. It is a vital role within any business and we, as professionals, can improve the workplaces and communities around us. The job offers real opportunity to progress through the ranks and learn new skills. There are various professional membership bodies that you can join for support and to keep up to date with legislation changes and best practices. I have found it to be a really rewarding career, so my advice would be to go for it!