I’ve always been taught, find the job you want, list all the requirements, and then figure out how to achieve them!

Case Study: Mark Openshaw, Health and Safety Manager at Octane Holding Group

NEBOSH spoke to Mark Openshaw, Health and Safety Manager at Octane Holding Group about his career and how NEBOSH helped him get to where he is today.

I see you originally started out in sales, what led you to take a qualification in Maritime Studies?

A career in sales wasn’t really something I wanted to do for the rest of my life, it was more something I stumbled into. After a lot of soul searching, I decided to try something a bit different and the sea was definitely that. It meant my training was also fully funded, so I didn’t have to get into student debt. 

During your studies, you spent time as a deck cadet. Did you enjoy your time at sea?

Cadetship was the toughest thing I have ever done and involved me being away from home for up to 11 months out of the year. It was hard but if I wanted to become an Officer, I knew I had to work my way up from the bottom because it provides vital learning and builds character.  I achieve my goal to become an Officer and loved my job.  However, the time away from friends and family started to take its toll over time.

When and why did you develop an interest in pursuing a career in health and safety?

At sea, part of my duties included health and safety. When I decided I wanted a job ashore, the natural and easiest way to go without starting from scratch was to use the skills I had gained at sea. This was one of the main motivations for making health and safety my career when I returned.

How did you secure your first opportunity in the profession?

By working hard, getting the necessary qualifications, and applying for many different opportunities. I applied for Octane Holding Group as I had some history working with tanks and man entry and they called me straight away for an interview the next morning, I met with the Directors and they shared a similar vision for what my role should be and how they would manage it.

Why did you to decide take NEBOSH National Diploma in Occupational Health and Safety in 2020?

I’ve always been taught, find the job you want, list all the requirements, and then figure out how to achieve them! So, I looked at what was required for Health and Safety Manager positions and the majority specified NEBOSH Certificates or Diplomas. I decided to sign up for the higher-level qualification, the National Diploma in Occupational Health and Safety, as I had the funds available after selling my house.  During my studies, I worked part time for a friend and devoted the rest of the time to studying. I aimed to achieve the National Diploma in 6-9 months, but it took a little longer after I failed one of the exams on my first attempt. I had signed up to take all 3 exams a in a week, which I would not advise as I found it was too much.

How did you find the qualification, and has it been useful? 

100%! I would not have my job now without it. I find that I use the skills and knowledge I gained through my studies every day. When I tell people that I have a NEBOSH Diploma the recognition is huge, and I never have to worry about feeling underqualified if I get asked by potential customers.

Most learners choose to take the NEBOSH General Certificate in Occupational Health and Safety before they take a NEBOSH Diploma, but the Diploma was your first NEBOSH qualification? Why did you make this decision?

I like a challenge! They told me when I signed up that I would find it hard and it was, but I wanted to transition careers without having to take too big of a step back. I wanted to start with the Diploma to get on and get ahead.

Can you explain what your current role is and discuss your roles and responsibilities?

I am currently Health and Safety Manager for Octane Holding Group. My responsibilities are varied.  I keep the company accredited by ensuring the management system complies to ISO 9001, 14001, and 45001 standards. Regular internal audits are completed to ensure that our employees conform to safety procedures and policy.  I maintain our ConstructionLine, SafeContractor, OFTEC, PEIMF, and APEA accreditations and completing customer pre-qualification questionnaires (PQQs). I also produce risk assessment method statement (RAMS) and risk assessments for a variety of work including the installation, removal and cleaning of tanks, concrete pad installation, tank pressure testing.

I am also responsible for keeping the company up to date with COVID regulations, investigating incidents and near misses, carrying out and tracking corrective actions and non-conformances, yard inspections, legionella testing, health surveillance, DSE surveillance, and fire drills. I have to keep employees training up to date to ensure they are competent to carry out tasks with regular evaluations. I also ensure that equipment is up to date with LOLER and PUWER regulations and conforms to standards.

Everything has to be justified to the Directors, but they give me a lot of freedom to make my own decisions.

I notice that you also volunteer as a Health and Safety volunteer at MS Society, how come you decided to do this? What do you get involved with?

Whilst I was waiting for exam results, and I got turned down for a job opportunity, but the interviewer recommended the role to me as a way of gaining additional experience. I have some history working with people with disabilities so decided to lend a hand and provide advice and support to the local group. I make sure they do not fall foul of company regulations when organising events etc. They are a great bunch and regularly meet for coffee mornings!

What do you enjoy most about your health and safety career?

In this role, I enjoy the freedom given and the feeling of pressure that gives me. I need to manage my own time, my own work, inspections, audits, everything. It has been a great first health and safety manager position that has given me lots of opportunity to grow and I really enjoy the role and responsibility.

Are there any aspects you do not enjoy?

The hard part is knowing you do not have an infinite budget to spend. Everyone in this position will want to implement everything they learn about and train everyone to the highest possible standard. In reality, you can’t do everything at once and you won’t be able to do everything you want, which can be frustrating. Its very rewarding when you find ways round problems and you just must learn to manage the expectations of yourself and others.

What advice would you give someone who is considering health and safety as a career?

For me, the starting point is identifying where you want to be so you can come up with a plan to make it a reality. Look at the jobs you dream of doing and what they require and then invest time and money in your development to get the qualifications you need. If you are worried about gaps in knowledge, there are plenty of courses out there and they do not cost the earth. Many can be done online at your own leisure. Keep adding to the CV and your knowledge and you’ll find it all just clicks.