Health and Safety is worthwhile and we make a difference, which makes it the perfect career for me!

Case Study: David Beddow - Health and Safety Trainer and Consultant

Dave Beddow is a trainer and consultant who loves to use his passion for Health and Safety to help others. In this interview, Dave explains how he came to work in Health and Safety and shares his advice for those who have similar aspirations.

1. You spent much of your early working life in the manufacturing industry. Can you explain how you career path changed to health and safety?
My route to health and safety is quite a common one. I was working as a process operator when the opportunity came up for me to become a Union Health and Safety representative. I found this appealing because I wanted a influence the health, safety and welfare provisions my employer made for its workforce. I discovered I really enjoyed it and was keen to learn more about health and safety in particular. I looked into my options, and chose to self-fund my NEBOSH General Certificate using 10 days holiday to complete the course. Studying this qualification really boosted my confidence because it gave me a great knowledge base that I could use in discussions with other workers or the management.

2. After 20 years being employed by the same company, you decided to set up your own training and consultancy business. Why did this appeal to you and how did you build the courage to go for it?
After completing the NEBOSH General Certificate I kept taking other courses and qualifications as I wanted to keep learning. When I felt I had the breadth of knowledge necessary to train others and give competent advice, I still didn’t set up on my own overnight. There was lots of weighing up the pros and cons and discussing what the change would mean with my wife. It was a big decision, but in the end I felt the positives outweighed the negatives and I thought, if I don’t take the leap of faith now I never will. So I went for it!

3. You have helped 100s of learners build up their health and safety skills and knowledge and join our profession since. What do you love most about teaching?
I know it may sound cheesy but I like to see the journey that the student goes on, especially those taking the longer courses like the NEBOSH certificate qualifications. At Gower College we deliver day release courses, so each week you get to witness every learners knowledge, confidence, and enthusiasm for the subject increase. By the time week ten comes around the class discussion feels like you are listening in on a group of health and safety advisors! Watching their development and progression brings me great satisfaction. It is so rewarding to help others find their passion for safety and the opportunities this can bring.

4. There is always something new to learn in health and safety and you make sure you devote time to keep your own knowledge and skills up to date. You have added NEBOSH certificates in Construction, Fire and the Environment to your General Certificate. Can you tell us why you took these qualifications and what you gained from your studies:

I am always looking to broaden my knowledge, so gaining qualifications that were specifically focussed on construction, fire, and the environment appealed.

The NEBOSH fire certificate reinforced my understanding of fire safety and fire risk assessments and provided a way for me to evidence what I know to new and existing clients.

I decided to study the NEBOSH Environmental Certificate when organisations began look to health and safety professionals to pick up environmental management as part of their duties. I felt it was an aspect of my knowledge that could be improved, and knew the Environmental Certificate would help me achieve what I was looking for.

There was another motivator for taking all three qualifications. Part of my role at the college is to help decide what qualifications and courses we offer. When we were considering adding these three to the programme, it made sense for me to experience them myself so I could understand their value. I now regularly tutor on all three qualifications and feel having completed them myself, helps me to better support my students.

5. What do you enjoy most about being part of the health and safety profession?
I love the variety you can enjoy as a health and safety professional. I will be in the classroom delivering training one day and providing tutor support the next. The following day could be spent developing course materials for a new course or delivering consultancy services at a client’s premises. As a trainer and consultant I get involved in a real mix of activities but the common thread is that I am helping keeping people safe. That is what initially attracted me to this profession and it is something I still enjoy today. What we do is worthwhile and we make a difference!

I also like that our profession is open and supportive. You don’t gain a competitive advantage by keeping something that has worked well for you a secret in health and safety. So we talk about innovations and discuss what has worked for us because sharing best practice just means you are helping your peers keep their people safe too. I take every opportunity I can to talk to other health and safety professionals and am an active committee member of the IOSH South Wales Branch. I enjoy being part of this dynamic, sharing, and caring profession!

6. When you think of all the practitioners you have met over the years, are there any attributes that you think are essential to be a good health and safety professional?
I would highlight the four pillars that feature in IOSH’s Code of Conduct, which are Integrity, Respect, Competence and Service. For me these mean:

Competence - building and maintaining knowledge, understanding our own capabilities and working within them

Integrity - working honestly and ethically

Respect - considering the impact our actions have on others

Service – delivering what we say and on time

When I applied for Chartered status of IOSH, I was asked a question about these as I suppose they are what make us health and safety professionals.

When a health and safety professional has a success, you will often hear them say “I questioned it because it just didn’t look right”. Some may put this down to a gut feeling, but for me this is what being a good health and safety professional is all about. You have to be inquisitive, you have be able to build rapport and ask the right questions, and you have to care enough to keep going! The best health and safety professionals that I know are all what I would describe as a "people person". They care and get on with people and this helps them be great at what they do.

7. What would your advice be to anyone considering making health and safety their career?

The things I would encourage any individual who is starting out in the industry to do are:

  • Seek out opportunities to apply the knowledge you have gained in any qualification you achieve - If you are not already working in health and safety, share your aspirations with your employer who may be able to offer you work experience or the opportunity to shadow members of the health and safety team.
  • Try and find ways to develop and hone the attributes that make a good safety professional - if you think something isn’t quite right, have the confidence to ask questions but remember to be persuasive, but in a non-confrontational way.
  • Talk to people in the health and safety profession - build your network by joining any local safety groups or online forums. You can learn a great deal by hearing about the experiences others have had, good or bad! The insight you can gain from speaking to others in our profession will help you build on the foundation of knowledge your qualification gives you.
  • Ask a health and safety professional who you rate if they will mentor you - spend time in their company and listen to their experience and advice.  

For me the key is that you learn to walk before you try and run. If you make the effort, focus on the right things and work hard, you will be in a good place to be successful.