Anyone making a career in health and safety needs help sometimes, says Marisa Firkins, director of Safety Forward and one of the founders of a new support group.
At the start of 2022 a group of health and safety professionals formed a LinkedIn Group called The Safety 7. The group is a mixture of people from different backgrounds and careers who have come together to try to help others.
The purpose of The Safety 7 is to share knowledge and support online with those at any stage of their career in health and safety. This can be those looking to climb the career ladder, to those who may have recently gained qualifications looking to land their first job.
Getting your first break in a health and safety role can be difficult and we are here to do something to change that.
Anyone working in the sector can hit roadblocks, no matter how experienced they are and our series of webinars, discussions and tutorials are also intended to provide advice and inspiration to overcome such times.
“We recognise that getting your first break in a health and safety role can be difficult and we wanted to do something to change that.”
My particular struggle was in 2014 when I took redundancy after 22 years with the National Crime Agency. Having started in intelligence work, I’d been working as a health and safety manager for the agency for the previous five years.
Labelled as a specialist
I had, I thought, a really good all-round skill set, but I was labelled as a specialist in ‘law enforcement work’ and brushed aside by lots of different agencies and employers. Yet I’d done risk assessments for the team that climbed satellite masts and other work at height. We had a team of electricians, others handling technical equipment like lasers, even construction projects. It was health-and-safety work with readily transferable skills.
Hitting that brick wall worked in my favour, as it made me choose a path that I wouldn’t have probably taken otherwise and prompted me to start my own consultancy.
But it has made me subsequently reflect on my CV and that I’d probably made the mistake that a lot of ex-forces people make if you work within an institution. That is, expecting everyone in the outside world to understand the contents of your CV.
The Safety 7 want to help people in a similar position, so that they have the choice on the direction they want to take their career and make the most of the experience they can offer.
The Safety 7
Neil Fisher – Rail health safety and environment practitioner
Scott Crichton – Principal health and safety consultant
Katy Jenner – Senior safety health and environmental manager
Liz Hancock – Head of health, safety environment and facilities
Robert Jukes – HSEQ manager
Stuart Bailey – Construction occupational safety and health advisor
Marisa Firkins – Owner/director of Safety Forward
Landing your first job
Some of the subjects we have covered include dealing with imposter syndrome and how to land your first role if you have a qualification but no experience. We also cover how to collate continued professional development (CPD) evidence for your chosen membership body.
We have recently shared our favourite books on leadership and health and safety. Our LinkedIn Group is active with questions from followers across the world and has gained 550 members.
Like my colleagues, being part of the group is my way of giving back to the profession. I am lucky enough to have been inspired by so many great leaders during my career. It is now time to pay it forward and help others.
Marisa Firkins is director of Safety Forward.
The Safety 7 are embarking on a fundraising challenge for Dementia UK. This has received great support and has so far raised more than £4,400. More details at www.justgiving.com/fundraising/safety7.