I realised that with my interpersonal skills and experience from my time in the Armed Forces, I was well suited to the world of health and safety.

Case Study: Lewis Matthews

Lewis Matthews was 20 years old when he joined the British Army; he wanted to get away from the everyday normal in Essex, to explore the world and seek adventure. Now, a HSE Manager at Amaro, Lewis tells us about his experience of transitioning from the Armed Forces into a career in health and safety.

What support did you receive to transition from the Army to a new career?

I received support from the Career Transition Partnership programme (CTP) and from John Stephenson from The Forces Transition Group (FTG). My best pal Lee Paine, an armed forces veteran, provided the most support, mentorship, and guidance. Lee had already left the British Army and was doing well in the rail industry; he introduced me to some key people early on in my resettlement which massively helped map out my resettlement from soldier to civilian in the rail industry. I also used all of my ELCAS funding to enrol into different qualifications.

What made you decide to pursue a career in health and safety?

I was planning a career in project management when I was leaving, but when I attended an interview for an Assistant Project Manager role at Network Rail, the hiring manager asked if I had considered health and safety. At that point, I hadn’t because I didn’t have any health and safety qualifications. The hiring manager explained that there was an opportunity at London Bridge Delivery Unit to become a Workforce Health, Safety and Environment Advisor. When I started to research the role, and health and safety in general, I realised that with my interpersonal skills and experience from my time in the Armed Forces, I was well suited to the world of health and safety. I just needed someone to give me an opportunity, to gain qualifications and experience in role.

Which NEBOSH qualifications did you take? Why did you decide to take NEBOSH qualifications?

When I was offered the role of Workforce Health, Safety and Environment Advisor at Network Rail I immediately enrolled on the NEBOSH Environmental Management Certificate and NEBOSH National General Certificate. I did this to upskill on the theory side of health and safety and to learn about the moral, legal and financial reasons as well as management systems and audits. I chose NEBOSH qualifications because they are highly respected not just by employers, but by governments and their learners as well, I also completed the NEBOSH Fire Certificate and Construction Certificate before leaving Network Rail.

In June 2023 I left Network Rail and joined Amaro Signalling Ltd as its HSE Manager. My Managing Director, Michael Ewart, and Engineering & Operations Director, John Waugh, both recognise the importance of continually improving. Since arriving they supported me to complete the NEBOSH HSE Introduction to Incident Investigation, and I’m currently studying for the NEBOSH HSE Certificate in Health and Safety Leadership Excellence. Next year I am planning to start the NEBOSH Level 6 Diploma and John is working 1-2-1 with me on my personal development plan (PDP).

What advice would you give to someone who is thinking of transitioning into a career in health and safety?

Research the industry that you want to work in, identify what qualifications you need and start to book training courses. Network on LinkedIn, be proactive and reach out to health and safety professionals, ask for advice and top tips, get your CV in front of people, and improve it. Try to arrange some work experience so you can gain health and safety experience. From personal experience, don’t be put off by the essential criteria on a job advertisement; if you have what they are looking for they can and will train you.

What are the benefits of taking up a career in health and safety?

I get to work with a myriad of people at all levels of the business which gives me exposure to different departments and teams. No two days are the same, it’s challenging and rewarding at the same time. As a safety professional, I can influence and help make improvements that positively impact our team; my favourite part of being a safety professional is going out on site with my team. The biggest gains are made when boots are on the ballast, it provides me with an opportunity to listen, watch, learn and help improve health and safety at Amaro.

Being a visible health and safety leader is extremely important to me. The team respect my approach and it gives them visibility of their Health and Safety Manager; they can ask questions, raise concerns and we work together to drive improvement and make their work safer so everyone can go home safe every day to their family.
When I am out with the team we regularly go to the café for breakfast, it’s nice to get to know them on a personal level as well as a professional. The Amaro workforce have given me the nickname of Company Morale Officer #CMO, which I absolutely love! We always promote the benefits of going out on site and use the hashtag #thosewhogoknow on LinkedIn.