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5 minutes with

5 Minutes With… the Fire Protection Association’s Melissa Harrison

In the latest instalment of our health & safety industry executive interview series, we spoke to Melissa Harrison, Events Manager at the Fire Protection Association, about the organisation’s work, the biggest health & safety challenges in the UK, future trends and the importance of maintaining perspective in life…

Q: Tell us about your company, products and services.

A: The Fire Protection Association is the UK’s national fire safety organisation. We largely exist to promote fire safety in the built environment so we work closely with those responsible for building safety including those in construction. Our membership offering provides guidance and resources for a variety of roles, from fire risk assessors, building owners and managers, to architects and facilities managers.

As a not for profit company of fire safety experts, we have an unrivalled reputation for quality and expertise in all aspects of fire protection including research, consultancy, training, publications, risk surveying, fire strategy and auditing. All our services are central to the reputation we’ve built amongst our membership and advocates who trust our independent expertise.

Q: What have been the biggest challenges the Health & Safety industry has faced over the past 12 months?  

A: With our fire hat on, the biggest changes for us have been 2 big new pieces of legislation that have been created as a result of the devastating Grenfell Tower fire in 2017.  The Building Safety Bill and the Fire Safety Bill. Of course COVID 19 has hindered many standard fire safety measures, such as fire alarm checks, extinguisher maintenance to fire risk assessments and sprinkler system reviews. Being forced to work from home for much of the past 12 months will have undoubtedly changed the way health and safety professionals work but we must not forget the importance of maintaining fire safety standards. To help the sector, we delivered a webinar in the first lockdown, aimed at educating those with fire systems on how to maintain them in this challenging period. 

Q: And what have been the biggest opportunities?  

A: The biggest opportunities are that never before have the worlds eyes been as open to the dangers of fire as they are at the moment.  We have for a long time been discussing the use of combustible materials in construction and this is now being considered as a priority alongside, for example, sustainability and cost. But most importantly, if there is anything to be learned from the last 12 months, its that we must be prepared for a crisis. We must ensure that our businesses and employees are prepared for the worst, should it happen, so that we can return to normal as quickly and safely as possible. Its something we are working to support building owners and managers via our Know Your Building campaign. 

Q: What is the biggest priority for the Health & Safety industry in 2021?  

A: I think competency is really relevant now more than ever – how can we ensure that people are operating within their own level of competency?  Looking at mandatory levels of training which is now commonplace in the health and safety world but not so much in fire.  Third party certification – again common for many parts of fire safety such as automatic detection systems but is also likely to become a requirement for fire risk assessors.  Then also looking at regulation and enforcement – the HSE as a body is much more of an authority than what exists for fire, we are almost in effect several years behind so moving forward to a more universal acceptance that fire safety needs to infiltrate all areas of a business and for the threat of not doing this to be a clear law breaker should be a priority. The FPA are supporting the sector by providing clear qualification pathways in fire risk assessment, to better equip H&S professionals with responsibility of undertaking risk assessments.  

Q: What are the main trends you are expecting to see in the market in 2021?  

A: I think there will again be a big focus on testing of materials, clearer accountability for fire safety and a renewed focus on educating. Third party accreditation is something that the market as a whole will need to embrace this coming year. Regardless of legislation changes, it is the FPA’s belief that this is the only way to ensure accountability and credibility. 

Q: What technology is going to have the biggest impact on the market this coming year?  

A: I would think we possibly would see more utilisation of smart systems so things like being able to monitor systems remotely, being able to operate systems via WIFI and the use of BIM technology to help plan intelligent buildings.

Q: In 2025 we’ll all be talking about…?  

A: Ha ha I hope it will not be BREXIT, COVID or home schooling, as I have thoroughly had enough of these three topics.  That’s only 4 years away now and it would be nice to think from a sector point of view that all building material that needs replacing will have been done by then and that this will not have been at expense of the leaseholders who did not build the building in the first place.

Q: Which person in, or associated with, the Health & Safety industry would you most like to meet? 

A: For me Dame Judith Hackitt, we would love to have a chat with her at the FPA and from a personal perspective it would be nice to see how she feels as a female working in a male dominated industry.  I would like to ask her if she feels there is more widespread ethics problem in the construction industry or if it was a case of the government lack of management.

Q: What’s the most surprising thing you’ve learnt about the Health & Safety sector? 

A: That it is not actually that large a world – I have only been working in this industry for 8 years but I feel I have met many of the key players in our sector now and that is not the case for many industries.  Also if I could have 2 things – the other is that once it is in your blood you do get a little bit hooked, everywhere you go you notice things and when your company lobbies for something that can make a change across the whole of the country effecting many people you feel like your day to day work has contributed to the bigger picture and not just earned the mortgage.

Q: You go to the bar at the Occupational Safety & Health – what’s your tipple of choice?

A: It would be a nice cold glass of something bubbly.

Q: What’s the most exciting thing about your job?  

A: Actually meeting so many people – I talk to nearly everyone in our organisation regularly and I have met many of our members and customers it is nice to have the fire community as colleagues.

Q: And what’s the most challenging?  

A: It’s a personal one but I am a part time worker (my choice) whilst my son is young to enable me to have the work life balance I would like.  This does pose certain issues but the FPA have been incredibly supportive and flexible.  You simply cannot do everything you want and sometimes you will miss out that is the nature of the game and once you have got your head around this you focus in on doing the best you can with the time you have.

Q: What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?  

A: As much as I love my job and the fulfilment it brings to my life, my mum once said to me (during a particularly stressful time at a previous employer) you do not see on people’s gravestones “here lies Melissa Harrison she worked really hard for XX” which is a good reminder to never forget about the most important things in life.

The Crown or The Mandalorian?  

The Crown!

About Melissa Harrison

Melissa has over 20 years of experience in events. Presently she has served as the Events Manager at the UK’s national fire safety organisation for 7 years. Her role involves coordinating attendance at all external events and organising the FPA hosted events which includes:

• The annual FIRE conference
• Member networking events
• Quarterly industry update seminars
• Monthly webinars

In addition to this Melissa looks after the team of FPA consultants and manages speaker requests.

Previously to this role Melissa worked in education for 10 years organising exhibitions, conferences and training all over the UK. Melissa undertook a degree in hospitality and other employment has included agricultural events Showground Manager, Events Coordinator in a large stately house hotel and working in local government.

5 Minutes With… Louise Perryman, Mirashare

In the latest instalment of our health & safety industry executive interview series, we spoke to Mirashare Director Louise Perryman (pictured) about her company, the ongoing challenges of COVID-19, the opportunity for technology & software and the importance of data…

Tell us about your company, products and services.

The early years were mainly spent developing health & safety software for the Manufacturing and Research divisions of Pfizer Pharmaceuticals in Sandwich, Kent, who continue to be a major client.  Over time we grew our customer base and redesigned the Mirashare EHS system as a cloud-based product, ideally suited to larger organisations in hazardous industries. 

Twenty one years on we have Mirashare customers in sectors including life sciences, food, facilities services, construction and energy. In addition, our online learning platform Learnbubble offers a complementary product for building H&S and related induction courses and provides online training for users of Mirashare to facilitate implementation. 

Our customers tell us that the main drivers for choosing and staying long term with Mirashare are that it is easy to use at operational and management level, is reliable and has great real-time reporting and charting options across the board. By analysing and acting quickly upon the data gathered (using the Mobile App for hazard reporting for example), accidents can potentially be avoided, lost time reduced and an organisation’s good reputation maintained.  The Mirashare service currently offers a choice of 14 different modules, the most popular being Incident Management, Action Tracking, Risk Assessment and Audit/Inspection.

What have been the biggest challenges the Health & Safety industry has faced over the past 12 months?

Covid-19 has presented a tremendous challenge, putting H&S right in the front line. Practitioners know that their instructions to implement appropriate measures in the various work environments will help save lives on a scale they are unlikely to have encountered before. This is quite a heavy load to bear. If everyone can be set up with systems to work safely from home that helps.  However, many sectors need their employees to be at their normal place of work, particularly higher risk industries such as manufacturing, construction and waste management. 

And what have been the biggest opportunities?

Ironically Covid-19 has also presented opportunities in that it has raised the profile of H&S. From a software provider’s point of view I would say that some organisations that have managed with a few forms and an excel spreadsheet are now looking to adopt affordable software designed to help them do their jobs more effectively through  things like mobile data capture, instant trend analysis  and tracking  of actions to make sure issues are fixed fast. 

What is the biggest priority for the Health & Safety industry in 2021?

Same as always – keep people as safe as you can. Continuous improvement is a term that’s been around for a long time but it’s one I believe in. Covid-19 will continue to dominate as everyone struggles to keep up with legislation changes, meaning that online systems which facilitate speedy Risk Assessment version release and dissemination are valuable assets. 

What are the main trends you are expecting to see in the market in 2021?

More lone working with emphasis on the individual. More use of internet enabled mobile systems to handle updates ‘in the field’. 

Then at the other extreme, for the large organisations ever greater integration of data across the piece, including increased links to HR and issues around mental health. 

What technology is going to have the biggest impact on the market this coming year?

Probably still Mobile tech.

In 2022 we’ll all be talking about…?

More robotics in high risk situations and to assist with rescue.

More use of AI for monitoring and to assist with decision making. 

Increasing use of virtual 3D learning. 

Which person in, or associated with, the Health & Safety industry would you most like to meet?

Dr Andrew Sharman, President of IOSH until a few days ago.

I attended a Health and Safety seminar in Amsterdam a few years ago, with which he was closely involved.  

What’s the most surprising thing you’ve learnt about the Health & Safety sector?

That it’s not boring, it’s about saving lives and the environment.  Its serious stuff that needs to be done right. 

You go to the bar at the Occupational Safety & Health Forum – what’s your tipple of choice?

Depends on my mood, but if cocktails are on offer, definitely a mojito.

What’s the most rewarding thing about your job?

Reading thank you emails and comments sent to the staff who have helped customers implement and support our systems. 

AND the fact that every day is different.  

And what’s the most challenging?

Choosing the right priorities

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?

‘A stitch in time saves nine’, from my grandmother. Catch it early   – that’s why I’m so keen on our mobile hazard reporting App. 

www.mirashare.com

5 Minutes With… Alex Wilkins, iHASCO

For the first instalment of our health & safety industry executive interview series, we spoke to Alex Wilkins, Head of Training & Development at iHASCO, about his company, industry opportunities, the challenges posed by COVID-19, new technology and why Stranger Things is better than Succession…

Tell us about your company, products and services.

We are iHASCO – a market leading provider of online Health & Safety, HR, and Compliance eLearning. We make training simple.

Providing over 10,000 organisations across the UK and globally with our training, we have also delivered over 5,500,000 sessions to date!

With approvals from the likes of IOSH, RoSPA, Skills for Care, IIRSM, and accreditation from CPD, we are confident that we offer each and every one of our users the highest quality training available.

What have been the biggest challenges the Health & Safety industry has faced over the past 12 months?

Undoubtedly the COVID-19 pandemic has been the biggest challenge. In fact, it’s arguably the biggest challenge over the last century.

It’s up to OSH professionals and employers to ensure that their staff are kept informed on up-to-date guidance and that they understand how to lower the risk of infection whilst at work.

And what have been the biggest opportunities?

To break the negative stigma surrounding Health & Safety, which the public often perceive as “a waste of time”. The current climate has given all OSH professionals a chance to prove the importance of the industry.

What is the biggest priority for the Health & Safety industry in 2020?

There have been many, but we think it comes down to three key points: getting people to adhere to COVID-19 guidance, looking after employee’s mental health, and sourcing PPE.

What are the main trends you are expecting to see in the market in 2021?

An increased focus on mental wellbeing in the workplace. Studies suggest that for every £1 a workplace invests in it’s employees mental wellbeing, they see an average of a £4.20 return. Not only is it morally right to invest in employee wellbeing, but it often makes sense from a business perspective!

In 2025 we’ll all be talking about…?

Our eLearning. That’s our goal, at least!

Which person in, or associated with, the Health & Safety industry would you most like to meet?

Geoff McDonald – A global advocate for Mental Wellbeing in the workplace.

What’s the most surprising thing you’ve learnt about the Health & Safety sector?

Whilst it can look extremely complicated on the surface, it really isn’t, especially when you get your staff to appreciate its importance and they have an understanding of their duties under current legislation.

You go to the bar at the Occupational Safety & Health Forum – what’s your tipple of choice?

Something that matches our brand values, so it would have to be best cost-effective, user-friendly, and simple! It sounds a bit like an ice-cold beer!

What’s the most exciting thing about your job?

Having a positive impact on the safety and wellbeing of employees all over the world.

And what’s the most challenging?

Breaking the negative stigma surrounding the health & safety and eLearning industry.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?

To always try and make a genuine difference.

Succession or Stranger Things?

Stranger Things, 100%!

5 Minutes With… Craig Lydiate, Eighty20 Risk Systems

For the latest instalment of our health & safety industry executive interview series we spoke to Craig Lydiate (pictured), Managing Director at Eighty20 Risk Systems, about his company, industry opportunities, challenges, new technology and the best TV box sets…

Tell us about your company, products and services.

Eighty20 Risk Systems is a web-based H&S Software supplier, providing our award winning E20 platform to all sectors of the economy, from manufacturing and construction firms to housing groups and charitable bodies.

What have been the biggest challenges the Health & Safety industry has faced over the past 12 months?

At the risk of being obvious, clearly COVID-19 has caused seismic changes to all parts of the economy and supply chain and I suspect will remain so for at least 24 months.

And what have been the biggest opportunities?

When the budget is tight it becomes all the more important to focus on where value is either added or lost. We are called Eighty20 for a reason, it has been the driving rationale of the business to ensure clients focus on what matters (the 20) and not waste time on the irrelevant (the 80). Helping clients remain focussed on the correct things remains a key focus, now maybe more than ever.

What is the biggest priority for the Health & Safety industry in 2020?

To understand something that the industry has grappled with for a long time, with varying degrees of success; that is to realise this is a people business. Without involvement and engagement then H&S will remain a marginalised profession. There have been huge shifts in the past decade, but it needs to be grasped now as a matter of priority.

What are the main trends you are expecting to see in the market in 2021?

In line with the above comments, then the realisation that the whole person comes to work and that the mental health of employees is probably just as important as their physical well-being. In fact, the phrase “Well-Being” is one we would like to see gain far more traction than “Health and Safety”. We may be getting better year on year with the Safety part, but we remain unconvinced that the Health part is keeping up. We think more Well-Being focussed initiatives will come to the fore. In difficult times it becomes far more important to retain valuable staff, not less so.

What technology is going to have the biggest impact on the market this coming year?

More use of mobile tech to monitor, on a personal level the general workday of the people we employ. This might sound “big brother”, but is not intended to: rather a more accurate picture of the realistic general risk exposure of our people, from work hours, locations and distances, in addition to the obvious COVID potentials.

In 2025 we’ll all be talking about…?

“Can you remember what your original plans were for 2020?”

Which person in, or associated with, the Health & Safety industry would you most like to meet?

Probably Ken Woodward – I have been citing his case and situation for a very long time and would like to hear comments from his own mouth.

What’s the most surprising thing you’ve learnt about the Health & Safety sector?

How much more work there is to be done to give the sector the same corporate clout as other functions such as manufacturing, sales and HR. Don’t get me wrong, I think the sector has brought the current situation upon itself by not being a mainstream function for many commercial enterprises for far too long. We see this changing, but it needs to do so much faster.

You go to the bar at the Occupational Safety & Health Forum – what’s your tipple of choice?

A nice robust new world red wine. Always!

What’s the most exciting thing about your job?

Working with clients who initially begrudge the initial spend on H&S and by the end of the engagement they think of you as having added huge value to the business. Quite simply, nothing like it!

And what’s the most challenging?

Making traditional industries change how they view risk (and not simply saying they do) and understand that Return on Investment does not only apply to the marketing budget!

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?

An American senior manager when I reported out of the States once said: “Don’t sweat the small stuff… and never forget it’s all small stuff”. I don’t always succeed, but do try to apply this mantra.

Succession or Stranger Things?

Succession… all day.