Health and safety is a great career choice because the work is rewarding, you get to make a difference and it provides an excellent foundation for senior leadership roles too!

Case Study: Ryan Reay - Augean

Ryan Reay is a NEBOSH Double Diploma holder who has just been promoted to a Site Manager position by Augean. In this interview Ryan explains why he chose NEBOSH qualifications to support his development and shares his tips for anyone with aspirations to make health and safety their career.

In 2019 you secured your first health and safety role and completed your first NEBOSH qualification, the NEBOSH National General Certificate. So… like the classic chicken or egg question, which came first?

In my case, I secured the safety role first and then started my formal health and safety studies. I had worked in operations and supervisory roles for my employer for nearly four years’ before I secured the QHSE manager position. I had been a health and safety employee representative for most of this time and found this was something I really enjoyed. I loved working with the other representatives to identify on-site health and safety challenges before recommending measures that would address them. Over time I realised that this work was something that offered real rewards for me because I was making a difference. My passion for health and safety had been ignited, so when the opportunity to become the QHSE manager came up, I had to go for it.

When I secured the role, I felt I needed to supplement my on-the-job experience and the level 2 qualification I had gained previously. I looked at my options and choose the NEBOSH National General Certificate.

What attracted you to the NEBOSH National General Certificate specifically?

I chose the NEBOSH General Certificate for a couple of reasons. Of the level 3 safety qualifications that were available, the NEBOSH General Certificate suited me best because of its course structure and learning arrangements. I was also beginning to understand that NEBOSH was the gold standard of learning for the sector and is widely respected and recognised throughout the industry.

After completing your General Certificate, you went on to complete two NEBOSH Diplomas, first in Health and Safety and then in Environmental Management! Can you tell us:

Why you chose to take these Diploma level qualifications in particular?

After I completed the NEBOSH General Certificate, I decided to focus on work for eighteen months before I continued my development. By early 2021 I felt more settled in my role and had more capacity to take my studies to the next level.

I chose the NEBOSH National Diploma in Occupational Health and Safety for Management Professionals because its content, structure and assessment-based learning appealed to me. The structure of the qualification and its assessments meant I could fit my studies around my work commitments. After a couple of months, I decided to start studying the NEBOSH National Diploma for Environmental Management too. I felt an environmental qualification would help me in my role, and since I liked the style and pace of the Occupational Health and Safety Diploma it made sense to stick with NEBOSH. It was an easy decision for me, although I did find these courses are very different, but in a good way.

What it takes to become a Double NEBOSH Diploma Holder?

I’m not the most academic person and level 6 qualifications require a lot of time and focus. I chose to study two Diplomas at the same time whilst also working a full-time job and on reflection, I would not recommend this to anyone! With the benefit of hindsight, I put myself under a lot of pressure studying both at the same time. Pacing myself would probably have been better, but I suppose I learnt lots in a short space of time!

These Diplomas are far from easy and need the respect of your time, focus, and attention. I studied both qualification through eLearning, which was the best option for me. I know people learn in different ways though, so before signing up I’d encourage you to talk the options through with your family, employers and learning provider to ensure you choose what will work best for you.

How attaining your Diploma level qualifications have helped you?

I’d say the main benefit from studying both Diplomas has been the increase in my base knowledge. It’s helped build and expand on my experience, which has improved my abilities to carry out my duties within the workplace. I’m more confident and can turn my hand to a variety of challenges.

Are you planning to attend the NEBOSH Graduation in September?

Yes, I’ll be attending the NEBOSH Graduation and am really looking forward to it. Having studied via eLearning it will be great to meet up with a couple of people who I studied alongside. I also look forward to making new connections with my Alumni and celebrating our success together.

You have recently been promoted from QHSE Manager to Site Manager at Augean. Can you tell us a little bit about the company and your role and responsibilities?

In March 2023 Augean Ltd acquired Future Industrial Services which is how the opportunity came about.

Specialising in managing hard to handle wastes, we have a UK waste treatment and disposal infrastructure that is focussed on delivering best environmental outcomes.

We service the Renewable Energy and Biomass, Construction, Nuclear and Radioactive, Processing and Manufacturing, and the Oil & Gas sectors.

We are a market leader in Specialist Industrial Services deploying teams of skilled operatives to all areas of the UK providing industrial cleaning, decommissioning and decontamination.

We are also a nationwide specialist in outage cleaning and support services throughout the Energy Recovery Facilities (ERF) sector.

I am based at Berwick-upon-Tweed where I was recently appointed Site Manager. Berwick is Lower Tier COMAH facility which has a focus on recovery and recycling of specialist hazardous chemicals and metals.

The organisation strives for the highest quality, health, safety, and environmental standards in everything it does, and I suppose my promotion to Site Manager reflects this. My experience of operations combined with the four years served as QHSE manager mean I am well placed to have overall responsibility for the site. I was only appointed a few weeks ago but I am really enjoying the challenge and, because of the importance the organisation places on HSE, I have plenty of opportunities to put what I learnt through my NEBOSH Diploma studies to good use.

What is next for you, in terms of your professional development?

My plan is to take a short break from studying, though those who know me expect this is likely to be short lived, as I love learning. My intention is to settle into my new role and then look to study a master’s in business administration. The alternative path will be to sign up for the NEBOSH MSc in Occupational Health, Safety and Environmental Management.

You have achieved so much since deciding health and safety was the career for you. What are you most proud of?

What I’m probably most proud of is my ability to give pragmatic advice based on my combined operational and health and safety experience. There is nothing better than suggesting solutions to problems that reduce risks to individuals whilst making the job easier or more productive. I love making a positive difference and helping to dispel the myth that health and safety is just a blocker that always stops the job from getting done.

What advice would you give to someone at the start of their health and safety career?

My first tip is to talk with as many health and safety professionals as possible. Build a network of support that you can talk with and seek advice from. Experience is everything in health and safety and one person can’t know everything.

Secondly, I would recommend you expose yourself to all aspects of the business you work in. You can only really begin to tackle health and safety effectively when you understand what really happens in your organisation in terms of operation and approach.

If you were a careers officer, how would you sell health and safety and what sort of attributes do you think you need to possess to be successful?

I strongly believe that health and safety is the best foundation for bringing competent people to industry. This career pathway ensures you understand and can assess risk, which is a vital skill for leaders.

For me, two of the most important attributes health and safety professional should look to cultivate are:

To be self-motivated - don’t wait for someone else to tell you to do something, if you see something is unsafe, address it.
To be an effective listener- it is vital that we engage with people and listen and understand what they are trying to tell us. Sometimes this means reading between the lines.

Working and learning as a health and safety professional is rewarding, challenging and gives you the opportunity to drive positive change. I am so pleased to have chosen to follow this path and would encourage others to go for it too!