NEBOSH qualifications help me to deliver our safety vision “Everyone Home Safe, Everyday”

Case Study: Mark Copeland

Mark Copeland works as a Project Manager for Network Rail. In this interview, we find out about Mark’s career and his NEBOSH experience.

I can see that you have worked in the rail industry throughout your career. Health and Safety is of vital importance in this sector isn’t it?

Network Rail has a Safety Vision “Everyone Home Safe, Everyday”. This is lived and breathed by everyone within the business including all our employees, contractors, and stakeholders. It is imperative that safety is a significant part of everything we do, so our customers and stakeholders can have confidence in our delivery.

You have held a variety of roles over the years including payroll, planning, engineering haulage and project management. When did your passion for health and safety develop?

I have enjoyed a 30-year career within the railway industry and have been lucky to be part of some fabulous teams along the journey. I trace my passion for safety back to 1990. During that year I completed a trainee placement in the Level Crossings team before taking a General Clerk position in the Emergency Planning and Fire Safety Team. A particular highlight from this period of my career, was being involved in the planning and implementation of a staged accident to promote safety at level crossings. 

In 2013, after gaining extensive experience in other parts of the business, I secured an Operations Risk Control Co-ordinator role within the Operational Risk team. This was a regional role, and I got to investigate and address a range of operational safety risks including irregular working and signals passed at danger events. I also delivered safety training and instigated the purchase of warning devices for frontline colleagues to use whilst working on steep gradients.

Wow you really have done so much, and it all sounds so interesting. I can see that you completed your NEBOSH General Certificate in Occupational Health and Safety in 2015. Did you enjoy it?

The NEBOSH General Certificate was an excellent stepping-stone for me personally to learn more about life in general not just safety. I particularly enjoyed the fact that my fellow learners came from a wide range of sectors. Most of my previous training experiences were internal or had a rail industry focus, so the broader outlook was particularly useful to me.

How did this qualification help your career?

The qualification increased my confidence in my ability to make informed decisions in my role within the Operational Risk team. It also gave me fresh ideas in relation to structuring control measures and helped me look at safety in a completely different light.

You then signed up to the NEBOSH National Diploma and completed this qualification in 2020. How did you find it?

I really struggled with the Diploma initially. I didn’t really know what my preferred learning style was, and this, combined with the volume of content, meant I found it difficult at first. After several unsuccessful exam attempts, I decided to look at different methods of revision, getting advice and support from NEBOSH, my Learning Partner, and my colleagues. Persevering worked and I completed the qualification last year, which is a massive source of pride for me.

What tips would you share with others taking this qualification?

My main tip is never give-up. When I struggled at first, I kept going and found there is always a way; you just have to find what works for you!  We all have different ways of learning, so take the time to try different approaches. Once you have established what you prefer, stick with it. 

I bought some revision guides which came with an audio version and these really helped me. I downloaded the guides to my phone and listened to them each day during my commute.  My theory was that when I listen passively to the radio, I learn the lyrics to songs. I hoped that I would absorb legislation and control measures in the same way!

Try to make your learning fun, because the NEBOSH Diploma is a big commitment, so it is important your enjoy it.

Can you tell us a little about the health and safety responsibilities you have in your current or previous role?

After seven and a half years in the Operational Risks team a new opportunity came my way. I am currently carrying out a Project Manager role for timetable development. Whilst, this is not a direct safety role, as with most things, there are operational risk factors to consider. When I am working on the timetables, I am always looking for health and safety implications. I want to create a robust timetable which will reduce the red signals train drivers encounter. A punctual planned timetable will also ensure frontline employees, such as train crew, will be able to achieve their required rest breaks. This is important because they are designed to protect their health and welfare. As a qualified health and safety professional, I can also take on the obvious Display Screen Equipment responsibilities in my office environment too.

What is next for you Mark?

The next immediate goal for me is to achieve “Chartered” status with the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health. I am really enjoying my current role but, in the future, I would also love the opportunity to take on a senior management role within a health and safety environment.

What would your advice be to others considering a career in health and safety?

Go for it! There is never a dull moment in any health and safety role and the varied tasks you face means that no two days are the same! I certainly do not regret the seven and a half years I spent in the Network Rail safety team and can honestly say I learnt something new each day.