A tragic experience close to home set Shahul Hameed on his path towards a health and safety career. Now, as a Chartered Member of IOSH, he is involved in some of Qatar’s highest-profile construction projects.
With a role that has seen him work on some of the biggest civil engineering projects Qatar has ever undertaken while still in only the first decade of his health and safety career, it might seem as if Shahul Hameed was born to be an OSH leader. But that wasn’t always the case.
‘My career plan was to be an accountant,’ Shahul says. ‘But during my studies, a really bad accident occurred. There was a lot of high-rise construction building going on in my hometown back in India, and a young man was painting a building when he fell and died.
‘I knew his family personally and, to my knowledge, his case wasn’t formally investigated and nobody took responsibility for it. Even in the local society, nobody questioned it, but for me, the incident ignited my interest in health and safety. This led to me studying the legal procedures in such cases, the rights that workers have in the workplace, employers’ responsibilities towards their workers and ultimately this put me on the path towards OSH.’
After obtaining an advanced diploma in health, safety and environment (HSE) management from the Western Institute of Technology in Mangalore, Shahul’s first professional position was with Qatar Quality Plus (QQP), as a quality, health, safety and environment (QHSE) management system engineer on major projects. During his time with QQP, the company also supported him to train as an auditor.
‘We would initially look to see where the gaps in HSE occurred in clients’ businesses, then assist them in developing the various standard operating procedures that would improve their workplace OSH culture.
‘I would also review and develop the management system documents to assist them improve their OSH policy and procedures.’
Building the nation
In 2014, Shahul joined Qatar Building Company as an integrated management system specialist and OHSAS 18001 (ISO 45001) lead auditor. He is currently a deputy (corporate) QHSE manager, working on major national infrastructure projects.
‘I’ve been involved in a range of different programmes here in Qatar,’ Shahul says. ‘One of the most significant is part of the Expressway Programme road project called P019, which covers the areas of Al Jemailya, Al Otouriyah and Al Shihaniyah. Another project is the Qatar Emiri Naval Forces Base. This is being supervised by the Qatar armed forces and, by the end of 2019, we had achieved 20 million safe working man hours.
‘We’ve also recently started working on FIFA Readiness Project 7 for the World Cup. I helped develop the initial health and safety plan and all related supporting documents, and I also assisted in coordinating the environmental impact assessment of the area.
Shahul has personally extended his professional development by becoming a Chartered Member of IOSH in 2020.
‘This has especially helped me when it comes to continual professional development, keeping track of my skills and recognising my developmental areas. But I find it has also helped me focus on more general business skills and broader skills,’ Shahul says.
Steps to success: Shahul’s four top tips for OSH professionals
- Make sure you are up to date with every current standard in relation to health and safety, and understand the effect that advancing technology, new systems and new ideas have on OSH.
- Subscribe to magazines or online resources such as iosh.com to keep updated with information as you build on your experience. There will be some accidents occurring in other parts of the world where lessons can be learnt.
- Analyse your skills and identify where you are lacking. Then, if you want a higher position, obtain recognised higher qualifications in OSH from reputable institutions.
- Finally, there should always be passion. Cultivate your passion for social responsibility and develop your communication with workers so they understand why you are here and the importance of safety in the workplace.
Not wasting a crisis
With the current COVID-19 crisis, that assistance from IOSH has been particularly useful.
‘One thing that impresses me with IOSH is the technology it uses and how resources are accessible by any member worldwide. COVID-19 resources have been very beneficial.
‘There are many active IOSH members here in Qatar and I’m really enjoying the opportunity to network with them and share knowledge. Before COVID-19 we used to have monthly IOSH branch meetings and even now we still have virtual branch conferences online,’ Shahul says.
But IOSH branch meetings aren’t the only thing that have had to change during the pandemic – Qatari government guidelines have also declared that specific working practices must be enforced.
‘Major projects are still ongoing but strict control measures are now in place. For example, the Ministry of the Interior says only 20% of private sector workers can be in the workplace, so 80% of our workers are working from home. In addition, we’re placing great significance on social distancing, hygiene and sanitisation of common areas, and we’ve also conducted our own assessment regarding COVID-19 to see where the high risks are,’ Shahul says.
‘We’ll be doing daily temperature monitoring of individuals before they enter the workplace. We’re making sure we provide awareness for all workers about the current situation and also about the importance of maintaining personal hygiene. And, in line with government guidelines, we are ensuring everybody uses a face mask. Like most people, we still don’t know quite what the future holds.’
For Shahul, there are still some clear objectives on the horizon.
‘I’m planning to pursue an MSc programme in health and safety from a UK-based university,’ Shahul says. ‘I’m also planning to get some qualifications in environmental management. I think, for any safety professional in a higher position, it’s important to be familiar with the environmental aspects and environmental risks involved in the workplace.’