Health and safety turned out to be the perfect career choice for me!

Case Study: Sarafina James

NEBOSH Diplomate Sarafina James is a HSE Coordinator for ArcelorMittal Distribution Solutions UK. In this interview she explains how health and safety became her career almost by accident and what she loves about the profession!

When did you decide you wanted to work in health and safety and how did you know it was the right career for you?
To be honest I stumbled into my health and safety career by chance. When I joined ArcelorMittal Distribution Solutions UK, on a Business Administration apprenticeship in 2014, I was placed in the Health, Safety and Environment team. I had no idea what was involved and was initially overwhelmed by the new terms and technicalities of health and safety. I had completed an AAT accountancy qualification before securing my apprenticeship, and always dreamt that I would become an accountant or a manager.

As time went on, and to my surprise, I found myself enjoying working in health and safety. It gave me the opportunity to interact with colleagues from other parts of the business which I liked, and I was learning new things every day. The turning point for me came when I visited the accounting department and saw how quiet it was. That’s when I knew that health and safety was the right career for me as its never dull or repetitive!

Can you tell us ArcelorMittal please?
ArcelorMittal is one of the world’s leading steel producers, which aims to help build a better world with smarter steels. The company employs 154,000 people across the globe. ArcelorMittal produces high-quality and sustainable steel products for customers in 155 countries. Here in the UK we have three Steel Service Centres and two Distribution sites, delivering steel in slit coil, sheets and blanks as well as sections, plate and profiles to customers in the construction, automotive and general industry segments.

Since the company was founded, it has aimed to align all activity against four values: safety, sustainability, quality, and leadership. There is recognition that success starts with keeping all employees safe and everyone is well trained and empowered to speak up about safety risks and concerns. The importance that is placed on health and safety here, makes ArcelorMittal a great place to work as a health and safety professional as you are pushing against an open door!

As a health and safety coordinator for the business what are your main responsibilities?
I am the health and safety coordinator for three of our UK sites; Wolverhampton, Birmingham, and Manchester. My role is a varied one, which I love! Some of the key things I manage for the three sites are listed below:

  • Developing and implementing safety policies and procedures that comply with relevant regulations and standards.
  • Training and educating staff on safety practices and protocols including how to use personal protective equipment, how to handle hazardous materials, and how to prevent accidents and injuries.
  • Conducting regular inspections and audits to identify and eliminate potential hazards and risks such as faulty equipment or unsafe work practices.
  • Investigating and reporting on any incidents or accidents recommending corrective and preventive actions to avoid recurrence.
  • Monitoring and evaluating the effectiveness of safety programs and policies so that improvements can be implemented where required.
  • Liaising on health and safety matters with internal and external contacts including managers, supervisors, employees, suppliers, and BSI. I also coordinate site safety meetings.

Shortly after securing your first health and safety role you completed the NEBOSH National General Certificate. Why did you choose this qualification and how did it benefit you?

It was my manager who suggested that I take my NEBOSH General Certificate. He felt it would help me progress within the company as it would qualify me to take on more responsibilities. Completing my NEBOSH General Certificate was very worthwhile as it gave me a solid foundation in health and safety which I could use at work.

More recently you have completed the NEBOSH National Diploma in Occupational Health and Safety with NEBOSH Gold Learning Partner, RRC. Can you tell us:

Why you chose to take this qualification?

As the years passed, I felt the urge to advance and felt that completing the NEBOSH Diploma would help me achieve this. It is one of the highest qualifications I could attain in the health and safety and is respected in industry so I felt it would open many doors for me.

Did you enjoy your studies?

My studies were hard and sometimes tedious but also enjoyable and useful. What I was learning was relevant and could be applied in my workplace, which helped cement my learning. As I progressed through the course, it really boosted my confidence as a health and safety coordinator.

I had a great support team made up of my husband, mom, kids, best friend. They kept me motivated even when I felt overwhelmed trying to balance everything. It was worth it in the end, and I am proud of my achievement.

How has gaining the qualification helped you?

It has boosted my knowledge, skills and confidence and significantly enhanced my career opportunities. It has played a key part in me becoming a highly skilled and competent health and safety professional who is not afraid to challenge and make changes to ensure our employees are safe.

What do you enjoy most about being a health and safety professional?
My career allows me to make a positive difference in the lives of others by protecting them from harm and promoting their well-being.

I get to learn new things every day because my role is so varied. Every day I face new challenges and opportunities and I love that.

What would your advice be to anyone who aspires to make health and safety their career?
If you have a passion for people and their well-being, health and safety is the perfect career choice. It gives you an opportunity to make a real difference to people’s lives by keeping them safe and well at work so they can return home to their families at the end of the day.

I think to progress in health and safety you need to find a way to gain a mix of hands-on experience and relevant qualifications. I found myself in the perfect place to achieve this when I joined ArcelorMittal. With the help and support of my team, I gained on the job health and safety knowledge and experience. At the same time, the company funded my NEBOSH studies. Balancing the two was tough a times, but for me the sacrifices were worth it because I now feel more confident and capable in my abilities.