A day in the life of Keith Sillitoe

26 September 2019

Each issue HSM puts the spotlight on a health and safety worker by speaking to a member of the British Safety Council about the challenges and rewards of working in this field. This time we speak to Keith Sillitoe.

What is your job, and where do you work?

I work as a senior safety consultant for the British Safety Council providing technical services for a wide range of clients. This includes training delivery, ISO45001 and 5 Star auditing services, as well as specialist fire safety, legionella control, machinery guarding and planned maintenance regimes, control of dangerous substances and explosive atmospheres.

What motivates you to get out of bed on a work day?

The variety of work that comes my way, travelling to different locations and client bases across the UK from Aberdeen to Exeter. I have also visited some beautiful foreign countries to provide specialist services for the British Safety Council, such as the World Bank Conference in Sarajevo, Bosnia 2016, Saudi Arabia to deliver the NEBOSH Fire Safety Certificate, Bahrain and Dubai for the British Safety Council International Conference in 2018, Holland and Germany for a 5 Star International audit. In May this year I travelled to Amritsar, Punjab, India to deliver our first International Fire Safety Audit. Delivering such a variety of specialist services saves me from any hint of boredom or repetition.

What does a typical day entail for you?

I don’t have many ‘typical’ days as each one seems to be different in some way. I’m either delivering audits, special advisory technical services or training, so I’m fortunate that repetition and ‘typical days’ don’t actually exist for me. Two-three days per month, I also chair Youth and Adult criminal courts as a Presiding Justice (Magistrate) at Camberwell, Croydon and Wimbledon Magistrates Courts for the Ministry of Justice, specialising in Housing Act 2004 and health and fire safety prosecutions.

What is the top priority on your work agenda at the moment?

Probably our fire safety services for Liberty Living, a company which provides student accommodation across the UK.

What skills are key to your role?

Interpersonal and listening skills coupled with a sense of humour and the ability to engage with our clients to ensure customer satisfaction. Relevant technical qualifications and experience are also a ‘must have’ prerequisite.

What route did you take to working in the field of H&S? 

Fire safety was my first port of call. Until 2001, I was Head of Fire Safety as Assistant Chief Fire Officer in London Fire Brigade. Next, I went to work for HMP Prison Service as Head of Occupational Health and Fire Safety. From 2010 to 2013, I was MD at Universal Safety Consultants Ltd providing OHSMS services for 3 London based NHS Trusts before joining the British Safety Council in June 2013.

What advice would you give a person thinking of working in the health and safety industry?

Work towards NEBOSH certificate and diploma whilst gaining some practical ‘hands-on’ experience in a good industry i.e. construction, agriculture, engineering etc.

When did you last laugh in work? What made you laugh?

I laugh every day at many things – especially myself.

What is the best part of working in your field?

The ability to provide clients with solutions to all OH&S situations ensuring that businesses can be profitable and safe at the same time. 

What do you see as the biggest challenges to health and safety at work currently?

Mental health and wellbeing are fast becoming a key priority in all industry sectors. Nevertheless, health and safety have to continue providing business with good commercial and financial returns within a competitive and global world.

Moreover, globalisation affects all walks of life. This means that the UK should share best practice with nations endeavouring to implement effective safety management systems.

Keith Sillitoe is a health and safety advisor for the British Safety Council.