Inspiring the next generation of health and safety professionals

As a result of previous voluntary work with the Malcom Arnold Academy in Northampton I was asked if I would support their Careers Day in February 2018. I saw this as a fantastic opportunity to inspire the next generation of health and safety professionals. To help achieve the best possible outcome for the students I decided to engage my colleagues at IOSH. I raised the opportunity of presenting to sixth form students at my local IOSH Branch, Mid Shires, and the offer of support was immediate. I also approached the Membership Development Manager at IOSH Head Office and the response was equally as positive.

The IOSH Mid Shires 2017 – 2022 strategy states “We must take the positive best practices we have developed and implemented over the years into the community, into our schools and colleges to ensure that the future generations are ready for a world of work that they too can influence and have a voice in. It also includes a clear objective to “Encourage active participation for all those at schools, colleges or university”. To support the strategy and achieve this objective the Branch has put in place a five-year project called ‘Inspire’ which aims to encourage more students to consider occupational health and safety as a career choice.

The IOSH five-year IOSH Strategy “WORK 2022 – shaping the future of safety and health”, which sets out their vision and defines the steps the profession needs to take. This strategy defines three specific goals: Enhance, Collaborate and Influence. As part of the ‘Enhance’ element it is the ambition of IOSH to introduce a ‘future leaders’ programme for ambitious young people and others early in their health and safety careers. The collaborative element of this strategy, in this case, will be the relationship with the Academy to share our expertise, experience and skills to move forward together. As the leading professional body in occupational health and safety their support in this venture will positively influence the perception of the students regarding the profession.

The brief from Rebecca Anderson, the Assistant Principal (Curriculum Development) of the Academy, was to make it interactive and there would be three sessions across the day and each session was to run approximately 1 hour and 45 minutes. I decided to break each session down into six elements, providing the opportunity for student participation towards the end:

  1. Profiles – how we got into the H&S profession.
  2. Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH).
  3. History of Health & Safety -1802 to present day.
  4. Statistics.
  5. Chemicals – know the symbols.
  6. Numbers game.

The presentation was delivered by myself and Andrew Butler (Chair of the Mid Shires Branch), with support from Tina Lee, IOSH Relationship Manager – Group Volunteers.


Andrew Butler (Chair of the Mid Shires Branch) and I gave an insight into our working career and how we ‘drifted’ into the health and safety profession. In my case, from an engineering apprenticeship, into facilities management and then health and safety management. Andrew started his career as a submariner!

At this juncture we also spoke about our membership with IOSH and the specialist groups that were available. As Vice Chair for the Retail & Distribution Group I took the opportunity to advertise this group. Tina expanded on the number of groups and the sectors they covered.

Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH)

Maria O’Malley, Membership Development Manager at IOSH, provided several informative slides. They highlighted the issues facing the future of occupational health and safety, in that in a recent survey only 8% of IOSH members actively chose OSH as a career, it most cases it was a second career (pretty much like myself) and that IOSH wants to change that with their ‘Future Leaders Programme’. This programme recognises that the next generation of OSH professionals is vital, and that student engagement is an important part, to build and develop the OSH leaders of tomorrow. This involves supporting them through studies and at all stages of their career.

Through the information provided by Maria we were able to announce that the IOSH Student membership level launches Autumn 2018. It will include careers support, networking opportunities and mentoring. Support will continue throughout the member’s career journey, continuing with Continuing Professional Development (CPD) to help members develop after studies.

History of Health & Safety – 1802 to present day

This was an opportunity to introduce a plethora of numbers for the game at the end of the presentation. We gave a quick run through of health and safety legislation from the first Factories Act in 1802 to 1961, finishing with the Health and Safety at Work Act in 1974. Considering history was not the subject of choice for 99% of the students, this element worked quite well listening to the answers and engagement in the final element of the presentation.


Another obvious choice to introduce an abundance of numbers. With a ‘heads-up’ given to the students about recording the numbers being presented to them throughout the session prompted an appropriate level of engagement. The statistics also enabled us to put across the more serious side of ‘what we do’ – the preservation of life.

An example of the statistics covered:

  • Number of fatal injuries to employees – 85% estimated reduction since 1974.
  • Rate on employer reported non-fatal injury – 58% estimated reduction since 1986/87.
  • Non-fatal injuries to employees by kind of accident (2016/17) – 29% slips, trips and falls.
  • Number of deaths from mesothelioma – 10-fold increase since 1974.
  • Rate of self-reported MSDs – down an estimated 40% since 1990.
  • Industries with higher than average rates of MSDs – Construction, Agriculture, Transport and Storage.

Chemicals – know the symbols

With reference to the CLP Regulations and the United Nations Globally Harmonised System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals we tested the students understanding of the various hazard pictograms in terms of what they meant, and we provided examples of where they could be found. We followed this with a graphic of several household products and asked the students to name the pictogram in each case.

Numbers Game

Finally, we played a game of ‘heads and tails’ with students, using pink and yellow cards. We presented them with a list of questions (all related to the numbers given in the presentation) and asked them to raise a coloured card depending on what they thought the correct answer was, pink or yellow! What a result, after some discussion on the first few questions the students were in the swing by then end, all waving the right cards!

In summary, we asked the students at the end of each session whether they would now consider the health and safety profession being a career of choice and around 40% put their hands up. Amazing, what a great result and a rewarding experience!

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