Nineteen-year-old IOSH student member Lauren Healey is undertaking the Safety, Health and Environment (SHE) Technician apprenticeship. She talks to IOSH magazine about why she chose an OSH career and her aspirations to work in the education sector.
What attracted you to the Level 3 SHE Technician apprenticeship?
‘I’ve always wanted to work in a school environment and maintaining safety requirements is at the heart of Oakham school in Rutland. I was actively looking for an apprenticeship in this sector as I am a kinaesthetic learner – I learn better and process information while I am physically engaged in the process. I take great pride in my work and in this role it would be rewarding to see that pay off by ensuring that each day is as safe and happy as possible.
‘It was advertised that I would also undertake a Level 4 Accident Investigation course through RHG Consult, which in addition to my Level 3 Safety, Health and Environment apprenticeship would be really great so that really stood out to me.’
You started your SHE apprenticeship in April working in the education sector. What was it about this particular training provider that prompted you to apply for the apprenticeship with them?
‘RHG Consult specialises in the professional delivery of bespoke training and they largely focus on health and safety, so I knew they would be experts in this field. It has an extremely talented team, which I am lucky enough to have constant contact with if I ever need to query anything. I’ve got a great team leader who I can contact at any point.
‘I receive regular learning sessions as well as working through the course and I get to speak to other people who are on the apprenticeship. This is all done remotely with Zoom meetings.’
Your course tutor said that you really stood out at the interview stage. What did this entail?
‘The interview process for this role was split into three parts. It was a series of general questions and then there was a practical hazard perception assessment. This involved looking at a computer screen and explaining the hazards that I could see. I finished off the interview with the delivery of a three-minute presentation on staff wellbeing and ideas I would have to develop this area in a school.
‘I delivered my presentation about an employee assistance programme. I aimed to highlight the importance of having a programme in place to help with all the struggles that employees may be going through whether that is at school or at home. It could cover monetary struggles, work health or family issues.’
By the end of the course, you will develop a whole set of new skills such as being able to assist and/or manage accident investigations. Are there any elements of that you are particularly looking forward to?
‘I am particularly looking forward to taking the accident investigation course. Also, by being at school I am surrounded by a variety of risks that I can learn from. There are loads in a school environment whether that be construction, electricity and display screen equipment, to name just a few.
‘From recently leaving school, it’s really interesting to see health and safety from a different perspective. I didn’t realise how many risks there were.’
What do you think you'll find most challenging?
‘I think my biggest challenge within my OSH career will be changing health and safety culture and getting manager buy-in into supporting health and safety. It is really important for health and safety to come at the top of any business and to then set the standards for the rest of the employees to follow. You’ve got to lead by example.
‘There are quite a lot of people that are compliant with health and safety once they’ve already had an accident whereas I want to change the culture so that people are more proactive and prevent accidents from happening in the first place.’
You've already made a great start on your IOSH CPD log. What have you done so far to improve your skills, knowledge and expertise?
‘I really enjoy updating my IOSH CPD log. It’s a great way to track my progress and my health and safety journey. I most enjoy attending training days, work shadowing professionals and watching webinars from IOSH and other companies. It’s really beneficial to be able to ask questions from people who are experts in particular fields whether that be fire, legionella or asbestos.
‘I have also conducted a series of online training courses through the iHASCO learning portal which has allowed me gain base knowledge of health and safety in everything from asbestos to working at height. I love the fact it is video based and I can pick up exactly where I left off if a priority task lands on my desk.
‘By the end of my apprenticeship I will be more of a generalist in health and safety so it’s great to have those contacts. For example, Peter Wilkinson who comes in to do our fire risk assessment has more than 20 years’ experience, so he’s my go-to-man if I need to ask any questions about fire. Even though I haven’t got the qualification, I can still learn about fire risk assessments. I also had a fantastic half day training session on legionella management as it made sense for me to undertake the training at the same time as the school chief operating officer and other key staff.’
Although you are only a few months into your apprenticeship, you've got already involved in a lot of additional CV building activities such as training to be a lifeguard and entering the Duke of Edinburgh award scheme. What did these involve?
‘I recently completed my National Pool Lifeguarding Qualification (NPLQ) and am due to start my swimming teacher’s qualification in the coming weeks. The lifeguarding qualification involved a week’s worth of training, which included very practical and classroom-based learning. This will support me in completing the volunteering section my gold Duke of Edinburgh (DofE) award.
‘My aim is to develop as many new skills as I can. I have chosen to complete the residential section of my DofE with a charity called PHAB who inspire and support disabled and non-disabled children, young people and adults to break down community barriers, reduce social isolation and create opportunities.
‘Gold DofE will be a great addition to my CV and a great representation of the new skills I recently acquired. When I first started my apprenticeship we were going through risk assessments for Duke of Edinburgh trips, which really made me want to get on-board with the gold Duke of Edinburgh.
‘All of my CV building activities are directly relatable to my apprenticeship, as this gives me a better understanding of risks within different departments in the schools. Understanding the risks certainly helps me to create the risk assessment.
‘My gold Duke of Edinburgh is going to take about 18 months so I will finish that just as I finish my apprenticeship which is perfect.
‘I’d also like to do IOSH’s Managing Safely course if budgets allow.’
How important are apprenticeships for young professionals entering an OSH career?
‘Apprenticeships are an excellent way to receive practical and relevant experience from industry professionals, which is something you can’t get from a classroom. It’s especially important in health and safety as there is a lot of practical elements involved.
‘Like myself, a lot of people learn best by doing rather than by reading or listening. Apprenticeships have the right balance between the practical as well as reading and listening, which helps improve these qualities.’
What would you like to achieve by the end of your apprenticeship?
‘I would love to achieve a distinction but also sit my NEBOSH general certificate exam as although it’s the same level of qualification I feel it’s more widely recognised. I hope also to be progressing from my IOSH student membership to technical membership.’
Do you have any particular aspirations in your OSH career?
‘I love working in the education sector and working with young people especially, so becoming a school health and safety manager would definitely be my goal.
‘However, I would like to expand my knowledge into mental health and employee and student wellbeing. I am already the secretary for the health and safety wellbeing committee at our school and this has made me realise how much of a passion I have for it. I would love to go more down that route.’