"The time I spent working on construction sites helps me communicate with the team, as they know I have walked in their shoes, or to be more accurate, their safety boots, hard hat, and high vis!"
Case Study: Marius Chiratcu – Harringtons Builders PLC
In this interview, we spoke to Marius Chiratcu, a Health and Safety Manager at Harringtons Builders PLC. Marius explains the part NEBOSH qualifications played in his career change and shares his advice for anyone who has similar aspirations.
I believe you have lived in the UK since you were 18.
Yes, I moved to the UK from my home country of Romania shortly after completing my GCSE studies. When I first arrived, I got a job as a forklift driver. I gained nine years’ experience in construction before becoming a health and safety adviser and I worked as a plant operator for most of this time.
Why did you decide to take the NEBOSH General Certificate?
I had been working on building sites for around seven years when a friend first mentioned that there were lots of opportunities for health and safety advisers in the UK construction industry. He explained that it was a well-paid job that offered excellent career progression. The nature and purpose of the work appealed to me, and I thought the insight I had gained from my on-site experience would make me a good candidate.
I asked him what I needed to do to make the move into this line of work, and he recommended that my starting point should be seeking some practical experience and taking the NEBOSH National General Certificate. He explained that this was a requirement for many health and safety adviser positions, but warned it was not easy to pass, and I would have to be dedicated to achieve some success. After investigating further, I enrolled on a course, worked hard, and was delighted to pass both units on my first attempt.
Amazing! How did you study for the qualification, and did you enjoy it?
I self-funded my NEBOSH General Certificate, fitting my studies in in around my other commitments always going at my own pace. This was the best choice for me as I was working full-time and have a busy home life too as a dad of a young family.
I found revising in the mornings was more effective for me. The information was more likely to stick if I studied at the start of the day, as I was always tired after a long shift working on site.
It was challenging fitting everything in, but it was a great experience for me, and I learnt a great deal. When times were tough, I just kept reminding myself why I was taking this qualification and that helped me to stay on track.
How did completing this qualification change things for you?
Achieving my NEBOSH National General Certificate changed a lot of things for me. It increased my confidence and confirmed that I wanted to work in health and safety.
Most employers recognise what holders of this qualification can do and specify it when recruiting health and safety advisors. After passing my NEBOSH General Certificate I found I could apply for several opportunities that I would not have been eligible for previously. I suppose my extensive construction experience, the fact I had self-funded my studies and had proactively sought health and safety experience on-site, demonstrated how committed I was to making this my career when I started applying for roles.
How did you secure your first health and safety role and what was it?
I got my first full time health and safety advisor role in 2019, and I know that having the NEBOSH General Certificate was key to me securing the interview. During the recruitment process I was able to demonstrate my passion, hard-working nature and commitment and was delighted to be offered a job by Harringtons Builders PLC. They are a great ground works company based in Wembley, London that is committed to ensuring that all work is done in a safe manner. Its health and safety department makes sure the right systems and processes are in place and are followed. They also ensure that any training and equipment requirements the team have are fulfilled.
An extensive three-month induction programme was put in place for me when I joined the company and this helped me settle in and understood my role and responsibilities. Much of my time was spend shadowing the organisation’s HSEQ and Compliance Director, Mr Scott Carr MB, who has proved to be a wonderful mentor to me.
You have been with Harringtons ever since. How has your role evolved over the last five years?
It feels like my role at Harringtons has grown with me as my knowledge and experience have increased. Over time, I have learnt more about the key regulatory health and safety frameworks, I have gained new knowledge by attending relevant industry related training and my people management and IT skills have developed. The tasks I have been given have evolved as my confidence and ability has grown.
I have worked on £10m+ projects for Harringtons and these experiences have helped me acquire extra H&S related knowledge and amplify my industry credibility and visibility as a health and safety professional. I was really pleased to be promoted into a management position recently.
Well done Marius! You have clearly managed to combine building your knowledge at work with building your knowledge through study as I understand you have recently passed the NEBOSH National Diploma in Occupational Health and Safety. Can you tell us:
• Why you picked this qualification?
It felt natural to progress from the NEBOSH National General Certificate to the NEBOSH National Diploma. I liked the way that NEBOSH qualifications were structured and assessed and knew from my previous experience that NEBOSH success is valued in the construction sector.
I think it’s in our nature to strive for the best and I cannot think of a more prestigious qualification in the health and safety profession.
• How you found it?
Juggling studying for the NEBOSH Diploma, with a full-time job and the family commitments that come with having three children was the hardest thing I have ever done in my life. It took real determination to succeed, especially as English is not my first language. But now that it is done, all the hard work I put into my studies was so worthwhile as the sense of pride I get from having successfully completed this qualification is amazing. I see the Diploma as a badge of honour in all honesty; I cannot describe it any other way.
• How it has helped you?
It has been a huge confidence boost for me, as I feel it is a clear demonstration that I am a health and safety professional. I find I am enjoying my role more because I have more confidence in my abilities and knowledge.
• What advice would you give to others embarking on Diploma studies?
Go for it! Your hard work and perseverance will pay off (massively)! Remember, you have 5 years to complete the qualification so there is no need to rush or put yourself under unnecessary pressure. Slow and steady often wins the race, and that is the approach I took to my Diploma studies.
What do you enjoy most about our profession?
The work of a health and safety professional is incredibly versatile. No two days are the same and I love that! The mix of tasks you get to do include training employees, site visits, safety inspections, developing safety programmes and administrative work. Most importantly, you play a vital role in protecting your organisations and its people and that is so rewarding.
If, like me, you don’t enjoy repetitive work, becoming a health and safety professional is a wonderful career choice.
Do you have any final thoughts you would like to share from your Health and Safety journey so far?
I would encourage my fellow professionals to never settle and to always be looking for the next learning opportunity to ensure your knowledge stays current and relevant.
I strongly believe that going through a higher-level qualification, such as a NEBOSH Diploma, helps shape you as a professional who can have a positive impact. But health and safety professionals need more than academic success in their armoury. You also need to work on how you present your thoughts and ideas to others as this has a huge impact on how much influence you have on the behaviour of others. Yes, you need to know your stuff, but you also need to know how to get others to take on board what you are saying if you are to keep them safe. The time I spent working on construction sites before I became a health and safety professional has always helped me here as they know I have walked in their shoes (or to be more accurate their safety boots, hard hat, and high vis!).
I will be forever thankful to my friend for suggesting that I consider making health and safety my career. I love my job and the opportunities it has given me to make positive changes for me, my family and at work of course too!