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A day in the life of Michelle Stark

19 June 2020

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 Michelle Stark.

What is your job, and where do you work?
I am the head of health, safety, fire and compliance for London North West University Healthcare NHS Trust.

What motivates you to get out of bed on a work day?
I work for a great organisation with great colleagues and there is just something special about being part of the NHS. There is camaraderie across the NHS that tackles problems head on and that resonates with me. My own role is diverse - one moment I am providing strategic direction and the next am part of a team solving an operational issue. This can range from corporate health and safety, fire, construction and capital projects to estates compliance. 

What does a typical day entail for you?
I don’t tend to have a typical day as my work streams are very varied, which means that each day seems to be different. Areas could entail strategic planning, writing polices, arranging a programme of audits, organising a fire evacuation exercise in partnership with the London Fire Brigade, investigating fire incidents or health and safety incidents, to reviewing RAMS for contractors, reviewing plans for construction work to our different sites, to arranging training sessions for fire, health and safety. This is just a small example of the different work streams I have.

What is the top priority on your work agenda at the moment?
COVID-19 has somewhat turned the world upside down; my top priority is one of ensuring that my organisation remains fully supported in its compliance with its obligations in relation to health, safety and fire management, while operating in a world with COVID-19.

What skills are key to your role?
Strong communication skills, organisational skills and time management skills are key, combined with being able to be persuasive and motivate at all levels in the organisation to achieve safety standards.  Having the necessary relevant technical qualifications and a wide range of experience is a must have.   

What route did you take to working in the field of H&S? 
My early original career was in business management, but whilst undertaking my degree in this field I was strongly drawn towards the health and safety modules. I was asked to be the management health and safety representative for the directorate of the organisation I was working for at that time for their health and safety committee and worked alongside some of the trade union health and safety colleagues so was part of some great partnership working.

I undertook some TUC training, IOSH accredited Managing Safety training, and I then undertook an Ergonomics and Display Screen Equipment Risk Assessment and Office Safety training. I completed NEBOSH certificates in occupational health and safety, fire safety and risk management and construction and never looked back.

As well as my work roles, I have been a school governor leading in health and safety and also previously volunteered for a children’s hospice in health, safety and fire.  

I have quite a diverse range of qualifications in health, safety and fire from an MSc in occupational safety and health management, lead auditors qualification, specific BOHS qualifications in legionella management and control and management of asbestos in buildings, specific healthcare qualifications in fire and water safety, as well as professional training qualifications and planning and delivering learning sessions.  

I have CMIOSH status and I am a member of the British Safety Council Practitioners Advisory Board and recently became the Chair of the British Safety Council Healthcare Sector Interest Group.

What advice would you give a person thinking of working in the health and safety industry?
Get as much hands on varied experience as possible and volunteering can be helpful to gain an insight in to this line of work. Work towards recognised health and safety qualifications such as NEBOSH, etc and once in the health and safety field I would always recommend networking with others.

When did you last laugh in work? What made you laugh?
I laugh every day over many different things; I have great colleagues and lead an amazing team who have great personalities and make me laugh all the time.

What is the best part of working in your field?
Working for the NHS I get to work with some amazing people.  Like all different work fields, healthcare has diverse challenges in health, safety and fire and I am pleased that I play a part in helping my colleagues deliver excellent healthcare to our community.

What do you see as the biggest challenges to health and safety at work currently?
The ever changing challenges every organisation faces in relation to COVID-19 and ensuring health, safety and welfare at work.