Back to school

I’ve been back at school for a week. Because I’ve moved to a technical job in health and safety I need to get some qualifications to refresh my knowledge and understanding as well as reinforce that all-important professional kudos. So, it starts with a NEBOSH General Certificate being delivered by Santia.

The venue was that Jury’s Inn in Glasgow, a middle-of-the-road chain hotel with pretty good training and conference facilities right beside Central Station and overlooking Glasgow Bridge and the river Clyde. It’s not the most salubrious part of the city, but that adds to the entertainment value.

There were eight of us on the course, with only one woman, which surprised me somewhat. I was the only EHP, with everyone else coming from industry. We had a lead assessor for quality systems, a gas engineer, an electrical engineer, a submariner, an architect and a chap who did something mysterious with munitions. Let’s be clear about this; what you need to know to be an inspector doesn’t necessarily correspond with what you need to know to be a safety practitioner in industry, so I didn’t have half the advantage I thought I might from my experience. Or it might simply be that I’ve forgotten a hell of a lot since I learned it on my degree course all those years ago.

Santia provide excellent teaching and revision materials and, if we don’t pass the exam, it won’t be for lack of preparation on their part. What is tougher than I thought it would be is the fundamental process of getting information into the brain in a way which enables it to come out in a coherent and structured way. I’m used at work – or anywhere with an internet connection for that matter – to being able to look up any fact or reference I want and the discipline of learning and recall is a little rusty. The second week is in the beginning of December with the examination following immediately after one weekend. Guess who won’t be going out to play that weekend?

As practitioners working in health and safety regulation, we are so used to the messages coming from government that health and safety is a burden on business, that it was a real pleasure to be in a room full of people from business, who took entirely the opposite view. The cost of accidents and incidents in the workplace costs the country as much as its entire defence spend, and amounts to one-third of the potential profits of the average business. Compared with driving down those self-inflicted costs, having an inspector call once every few years and spend a couple of hours with you checking that you are applying the minimum acceptable standards in protecting your workforce sounds like a gift, not a burden. After all, if you’re not sure where you should be putting your efforts in managing health and safety in your business, the inspector will soon tell you and, provided you’re not culpably reckless with health and safety, that advice will come at no cost to you.

So, tomorrow it’s back to the office and job one will be clearing the email inbox. Then to find out whether what I thought were my priorities for the week remain so, and getting on with developing new interventions and materials for training our inspectors. All good fun.

Here’s a picture of the Kingston Bridge taken after sunset on the Monday. The Kingston Bridge carries the M8 motorway over the river Clyde and lies just to the west of the city centre. Taken on my little Canon Ixus 105.

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This one is taken from about the same spot, but looking downstream towards the Squinty Bridge and the SECC.

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