Personal tragedy led me to a job I love

Case Study: Shelley Cameron

NEBOSH talks to Shelley Cameron, HSE&S Management Systems Advisor at Balfour Beatty about her career, the safety profession and the advice she would give to those at the start of their careers.

Why have you chosen a career in health and safety?

After losing my brother Shane in 2000 following an accident at work, my family and I unfortunately experienced the process that followed; not just the natural grief of losing a loved one but the trauma of the investigation, the coroner’s court hearing and our journey of personal recovery. I didn’t feel that all our questions were answered and that’s why I started to look into workplace health and safety in my own time to gain a better understanding of what went wrong and how events like this could be better prevented. 

We are so sorry Shelley. After such a devastating personal loss we understand your interest in occupational health and safety. How did you make it your career?

After researching health and safety courses I found out about the NEBOSH National General Certificate which was being offered at my local college and was getting great reviews. At the time, I was working in business development for Balfour Beatty. As the course would require a significant amount of time away from my current role, I thought it would not be a viable option.  

However, when I suggested it to my manager, they were more than happy to support. Balfour Beatty even funded the training and helped me balance my time away. I am so fortunate to have such an amazingly supportive employer who backed me from the start and encourages continuous improvement.

I worked hard and found the course informative and interesting. It convinced me that a health and safety career was for me.  After passing the NEBOSH National General Certificate in 2007, I applied for a health and safety position within Balfour Beatty and was successful. I was lucky enough to be supported by a mentor; a colleague who had years of experience in Occupational Health and Safety and he helped me find my feet in this new role.

Did having a mentor help your development?

Definitely! My first mentor, Stan, encouraged me to continue my NEBOSH training as well as helping me gain the hands-on experience I needed and was always available for questions. I realised that I needed to continually improve my skill set and training to keep up to date with the ever-improving health and safety standards.

Balfour Beatty has many skilled and experienced health and safety professionals with numerous specialisms who have supported me when I have needed it and I know I am always encouraged to further my knowledge and continue to learn on and off the job.

Can you explain what your main responsibilities are and how they have changed due to COVID-19?

My main role is focused on the continuous improvement of Balfour Beatty’s Business Management System. I get involved in reporting our performance, making changes to our systems to reflect policy and regulatory impacts, simplifying communications and streamlining our digital processes. It is a really varied and rewarding job.

I am also the health and safety representative for our office in Sheffield. This office has been closed temporarily due to the COVID-19 pandemic and many of our staff will now work from home long term. This has freed up some time to focus on the health and safety business management system improvements and digitalisation project.  

What do you enjoy most about your SHE career?

Balfour Beatty has given me some wonderful opportunities to build on my experience including working on the Aquatics Centre construction for the 2012 Olympics, travel overseas to Ireland to deliver bespoke Occupational Health training packages and UK wide travel to support site investigations.

What I enjoy most is the feeling of being part of a community of skilled individuals who strive to keep our people safe and healthy at work. Balfour Beatty is committed to Zero Harm which is truly embedded into site culture which makes my role really enjoyable as health, safety and wellbeing is taken extremely seriously by all.

Are there any aspects you do not enjoy?

I hate receiving news that, despite our best efforts, something has gone wrong. I chose this career to stop others experiencing the devastation that followed my brother’s death, so my personal connection to health and safety means I am extremely invested in keeping everyone safe at all times.

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

I would encourage anyone that wants to contribute to protecting the health and safety of people at work to follow their dream. Work hard, invest time into good quality education and always do what feels right.