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Simon Beeney CMIOSH is a Consultant on Make UK’s Environment, Health and Safety team. Prior to this, he spent 22 years in the Royal Airforce (RAF).

Simon’s time in the RAF instilled in him a deep appreciation for meticulous planning, rigorous training, and ‘doing the right thing’. Now, a qualified health and safety professional, Simon leverages his background in the RAF to develop and promote workplace safety.

Tell us more about your time in the RAF?


I was in the RAF for 22 years. My primary role was as a Communications Specialist, where I built, maintained, and managed IT, satellite communications, radios, and telecommunications. I also carried out other roles, including management of people in various roles, delivering training, and incident management.


When you left the RAF, did you know you wanted to be a Health and Safety professional?


The short answer is, no!


Thinking about it, there is a lot of cross-over between a role in the forces and health and safety, such as carrying out risk assessments, following legislation and guidance, protecting the people you work with. I’ve always believed in doing the right thing - for myself, the people I was working with, and the organisation.


At the time, I didn’t connect any of this to health and safety; it was just a natural part of the job.


So, how did you get into Health and Safety?


When I left the RAF, it was daunting. I was institutionalised and not sure of my place outside the RAF.


Initially, I worked as a Network Engineer, as this linked more closely to my qualifications and experience. I learnt a lot but after a while I got bored - the work wasn’t challenging me, and I didn’t find it fulfilling.


During the Covid 19 pandemic, I took time to reflect, consider my skills, and what I wanted the future to look like. It was around this time that a good friend, who knew my background, asked me if I had considered a role in health and safety.


At first, I was dubious, but I decided to give it my all and discovered that it was what I was missing from the RAF –challenging with lots of variety.


Can you tell us about the health and safety training you’ve done?


In the RAF, I did a lot of health and safety related training, such as leadership, fire safety, management courses.


Then when I started in health and safety, I undertook a level 3 NEBOSH course before undertaking a level 6 Diploma.


This is a fairly typical progression route for any health and safety professional. Many of the learners who study with Make UK start with the NEBOSH National General Certificate in Occupational Safety and Health before progressing to the level 6 NEBOSH National Diploma for Occupational Health and Safety Management Professionals.


I’ve taken loads of other courses too, basically anything that could improve my knowledge. I found the ISO45001 Lead Auditor course interesting as it allowed me to review systems and has since enabled me to consult clients on best practice.


Did you have any support in your early career as a Health and Safety Manager?


Yes, I worked with a consultant and found their knowledge and experience invaluable. Working with a third-party professional enabled me to take advantage of a second pair of eyes, their unbiased advice, and sharing of best practice. I would recommend working with an external consultant to anyone in health and safety who wants complete peace of mind.


I see you have CMIOSH after your name, what does this mean?


The designated letters CMIOSH mean you’re a Chartered Member of IOSH. IOSH stands for Institution of Occupational Safety and Health, and they are the Chartered body and membership organisation for health and safety professionals. There are six membership levels, and each reflects a person’s knowledge, qualifications, and experience.


Chartered is the second highest level and the one most organisations deem a practitioner competent.


What does your current role involve?


Every day is different, which is part of the reason I enjoy it so much!


One day, I might be creating a bespoke training programme for an organisation.


The next, I’ll be delivering accredited IOSH or NEBOSH training for a group of learners face-to-face or via virtually, via Teams. Often, delegates start a training session really negatively, as health and safety has such a negative reputation for being so dry. At Make UK we pride ourselves on delivering training in an enjoyable way, tailored to the learners, with real-life application. It’s great to receive feedback from people who have had a completely different training experience from the one they expected.


I also provide consultancy for organisations wanting to improve their health and safety culture. This involves speaking with people across a business, from the shopfloor right to the top, to understand the problems and start making improvements. This is really satisfying because senior leaders get the most out of their employees and quality is improved but workers are also safer and happier, because they feel looked after.


 What do you like best about being a health and safety professional?


It might be cliché, but I like that my role enables me to help keep people safe. Ultimately, I help to ensure people go back to their families at the end of a hard day’s work.


What do you like least about being a health and safety professional?


How stereotyped people working in a health and safety role are. The automatic assumption is that you’re a Jobsworth, complaining about how workers are lifting a box and delighting in slowing down processes! This is simply not true. There are many studies that show countries with a better workplace health and safety record are more productive and more competitive.


What would you say to someone considering a career in health and safety?


If you like an ever-changing role, where no day is the same, you can make a difference, protect the business and the workers within it, then do it.


There are a range of specialisms so there’s something for everyone. Changing legislation and regulations keep you on your toes. Not to mention the fact it’s highly rewarding.

Your background – age, qualifications, experience – doesn’t really matter. Often, people have ‘soft skills, such as problem solving, conflict resolution, assertive communication, and enthusiasm, all of which are important traits in a good health and safety professional. 

Blog / Make UK / Health Safety and Sustainability