A day in the life of Belinda Liversedge
24 November 2020
Each issue of HSM puts the spotlight on a health and safety worker by speaking to a member of the British Safety Council about the challenged and rewards of working in this field. This time we speak to Belinda Liversedge.
What is your job, and where do you work?
I’m a journalist at the British Safety Council, focussing on feature writing for our monthly magazine Safety Management. I’m theoretically based in London but working from home of course.
What motivates you to get out of bed on a work day?
Writing the stories that need to be told. Health and safety doesn’t make the front pages of the newspapers (usually!) It’s my job to give often unheard people’s voices a platform – that could be someone diagnosed with terminal mesothelioma because of asbestos they were exposed to at work or highlighting the dangerous levels of fatigue and stress suffered by our London bus drivers.
What does a typical day entail for you?
I check our news monitoring for stories. I will break these down into areas of interest and contacts, then do some writing or set up interviews. Researching and writing features takes a lot of time too – getting your head into a brand-new topic and then communicating that in a way that is hopefully engaging is all part of the fun and the struggle. Pictures are of course another factor of the work: everyone wants an image to make them stop and read, particularly for my social media posts.
What is the top priority on your work agenda at the moment?
Sorting out features for 2021! The news around coronavirus is changing so fast but there are some topics that remain constant and important to hammer home. It looks like the pandemic will remain the priority and of course work is playing an interesting part of this story, whether its PPE supply, how the workplace can be a spreader of the virus and what HSE, the regulator is doing to contribute to this public health outbreak. Then you have Brexit of course and we’re still unsure what’s going to happen to our health and safety laws. Perhaps nothing but this will be a running story through 2021 I think. Finally money! Will we make even more cuts to LAs and HSE capacity to investigate, will companies cut back on their spend?
What skills are key to your role?
Accuracy, knowledge, empathy, interest, the ability to simplify.
What route did you take to working in the field of H&S?
I’ve always worked in journalism and comms. But I was always writing about things. Health and safety spoke to me because it was about people. My favourite person at a previous job was the health and safety guy – he was the most vibrant person there! That inspired me. Plus, he read Safety Management….
What advice would you give a person thinking of working in the health and safety industry?
It really isn’t just about the technical knowledge. If you care about people and you are kind, then you are already half-way qualified.
When did you last laugh in work? What made you laugh?
Blimey..my colleague in India telling me about how his dog had to be prescribed anti-depressants..!
What is the best part of working in your field?
The coronavirus has put health and safety centre stage – PPE, knowledge of risk and how to control it. Suddenly it’s interesting but I’ve always it known this about health and safety. It’s about work, and work takes up so much of our lives. When it’s not serving us (or harming us) it can shatter lives, but the opposite is it can enhance lives. My work has suddenly become interesting and people want to know about it, which is great personally but also great that people are starting to see those links between health, economics and work.
What do you see as the biggest challenges to health and safety at work currently?
If we get a Brexit deal that doesn’t respect the level playing field on worker rights then we could see some protections weakened, even if not immediately the ability to tamper or take away rights would be dangerous.