We speak to IOSH Future Leaders Steering Group member Rebbekah Wilson about royal visits and being an OSH leader while pregnant.
How did you get into the health and safety profession?
You could say I fell into OSH. I started at my current company, Goodwin Development Trust, as an administrator within the estates team looking after maintenance work orders. This grew into scheduling servicing and maintaining building compliance, which then grew into legal compliance for the estates team. After a few years, I naturally started to look at compliance for the organisation as a whole and was offered the role as compliance officer and then became risk and compliance officer. Goodwin had never had these roles before, so it was a big deal for me that my skills were noticed and put to good use.
What have been the greatest challenges in your career?
I like to be the person in the room who has done the research and knows the answers. In some cases that’s been a blessing and people are confident that I know what I’m talking about. Other times, getting people to listen is the biggest challenge. People always have their own opinion of safety and how it should be done. I guess that’s because we all have our own perception of risk, but the biggest challenge in my career so far has been actually getting people to take on board the regulations and the ‘must dos’ that sometimes come with OSH.
What has been your greatest achievement?
Sometimes being female in this profession is challenging, so my personal progression is one of my biggest achievements to date. I can’t quite believe how much I have learnt and grown as a person in such a short period of time. I’d love to take all the credit and say it’s been my own journey, but, in all honesty, I have had some incredible female support.
I also never expected to be accepted by the Future Leaders Steering Group when I applied. I thought it was a long shot even submitting an application. I was incredibly honoured to be asked to join.
Something so obvious and ‘common sense’ to one person doesn’t mean that it is to someone else
What is it about being an OSH professional in the charity sector that gives you the most satisfaction?
I work for a development trust that has a passion for helping the community in any way possible. There’s a real sense of satisfaction knowing that the work my team and I do allows the organisation to deliver on that commitment.
Your favourite saying is, ‘What if common sense didn’t exist?’ Can you explain why you find this meaningful?
It challenges me to think of another way to communicate and engage with people. It also challenges other people to do the same and really think about how they are assessing risks and managing risks.
I have come to realise that just because I know something it doesn’t mean everyone else does. Something so obvious and ‘common sense’ to one person doesn’t mean that it is to someone else.
You were involved in organising a visit by the Prince of Wales. What did that teach you?
It really was an amazing opportunity to be part of something so high-level; it was such an eye-opener into security risks and controls. Obviously, the security for the royal family is phenomenal, but I honestly never dreamed of some of the checks that were needed before the prince could visit the site.
Goodwin’s events are not as high-profile but I did learn to organise things in a far more logical, flowing way. And to always expect the unexpected!
Fast facts about Rebbekah
- I qualified as an FA refereez when I was younger. Clearly, I always had a passion for following the rules.
- I studied dance to degree level. I’m now trying to find a way to bring the creativity needed for that to OSH.
- I am a huge dog lover, and my husband and I love to go on scenic dog walks with our little cocker spaniel.
Top tips for driving change
- Challenge people to think of a situation in another way.
- Be totally transparent – don’t hide things.
- Understand that change isn’t easy for people, especially those who are neurodiverse. Being honest and completely upfront with people about the good and the bad will always win points.
As you’re pregnant, has being an OSH professional affected how you’ve approached pregnancy? And has pregnancy affected how you think about being an OSH professional?
My husband does tell me that I don’t switch off my OSH brain as I have strange habits like always looking for the nearest exit wherever we are. Or, if we stay in a hotel, I’ll make sure I know the fire escape route and tell him where the stairs are. I’m sure my OSH brain has also impacted my pregnancy so probably, on a subconscious level, yes.
I think I have an inquisitive nature to understand things on a much more analytical level, which has definitely played a part in my pregnancy journey. Being pregnant and understanding first-hand the changes an expecting parent’s body goes through physically and mentally has also allowed me to review and improve how I approach risk assessments and policies within Goodwin.
What value do you get from IOSH membership and how important is it to progress?
My IOSH membership has allowed me the opportunity to be part of the Future Leaders Steering Group and learn from other OSH practitioners at a similar stage in their career to me. The support from others in the OSH community has been great and without my IOSH membership I’m not sure
I would be as confident in the field as I am now.
What lies ahead for Future Leaders in OSH?
That is hard to predict. We are expected to work across all kinds of sectors and areas so I would say that the OSH practitioner role will grow and develop into other areas of business.