Blog: Saving lives? Soft skills matter
Monday, 7 September 2020
Muhammad Raheel Khan is a Certified Safety Management Specialist leading the ProSafe division at Sendan International Company, a leading contractor for plant construction and maintenance, working in the petrochemical, construction and manufacturing industries. Here, he outlines the skills needed to succeed in health and safety and what jobs in the industry have to offer.
Why choose a career in health and safety?
There are so many benefits to be gained by working in health and safety, but chief among them ranks the satisfaction you get from truly making a difference. In the last ten years at Sendan, my policies and procedures have meant that none of our workers have lost a life or limb; that’s 100 million-man hours incident-free. This gives me so much pride, especially given our workers operate in the most dangerous industries around.
A career in health and safety also provides great opportunities for progression. My NEBOSH International General Certificate in Occupational Health and Safety gave me a real foothold in the industry, and as I gained more experience, I’ve had the chance to train, coach and influence decision-makers. You can go right to the top.
So, let me tell you more about my job…
My journey at Sendan
I’ve worked at Sendan for over a decade, ever since I joined in 2007 as a HSSE Coordinator/Advisor. I’ve progressed through the ranks, working as Sendan’s HSSE Manager, Corporate HSE Manager, to my current position, the Divisional Head of Safety.
As well as managing the health and safety policy at Sendan, I also advise on and assist with the safety, health and environmental performance of our clients. These are major companies in a wide range of industries, so the responsibility is big and the challenges are always different. As part of all this, I plan and guide the professional development of health and safety teams and foster safe working cultures across hazardous workplaces throughout the world, developing policies and procedures for organisations to implement.
I also recruit and train health and safety specialists, and take great pride in overseeing their development.
The skills to succeed in health and safety
Communication is crucial
It’s not easy to change attitudes and create a real safety culture. It can’t be done overnight. Things do get difficult when faced with people who don’t buy into initiatives, or say they won’t work. To get around this, you must have the soft skills necessary to win hearts and minds.
That means good communications. Good health and safety practitioners will listen to different points of view, and communicate their own with a focus on the ‘why’. What’s the story behind a new safety policy? What are its benefits? Once people understand why a new policy is being enacted, they’re far more likely to adhere to it and encourage others to do the same.
In addition to being a good communicator, to stay at the top of the game, health and safety professionals must be prepared to stay updated with the latest industry thinking. You need to be the sort of person who likes learning and seeks out training opportunities. There’s always more you can learn. Even though I’m experienced and well qualified, I’m constantly tuned in to hear about different safety management systems active across the world, and find real value in taking the best bits to incorporate into my own approaches to health and safety.
I’m always looking to think creatively, finding new ways to enable my staff to perform tasks and react to the evolving practices and requirements that define health and safety. Over the years, I’ve led organisations to improve their processes – this includes reducing vehicle incidents by using GPS technology, designing, launching and digitalising observation and feedback processes, and more recently, incorporating sensors to drinking water taps in response to COVID-19. This kind of out-the-box thinking is important to have if you really want to push the boundaries of what health and safety can achieve.
A closing word
It’s not a job where you can simply take a few exams and then sit back. But, if you’re looking for a job that gives you the opportunity to make a real difference to people’s lives; one that sends you home after each day with a great sense of satisfaction, then health and safety could well be for you. If you’re a people person and have the drive to succeed, why not take the plunge and give it a go?
This blog is part of our Do Something Great: Your Health and Safety Career series. Find out more about the campaign and download your free career guide today.
And, if you’d like to contact Muhammad, you can do so via his LinkedIn profile.