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A day in the life of Debbie Birch

22 September 2021

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 Debbie Birch.

What is your job, and where do you work?

I am the senior marketing and communications manager at the British Safety Council. 

What motivates you to get out of bed on a workday?

I love my job and the people I work with. It is so good to work with an organisation that aligns with my personal belief that no one should be injured or made ill through their work. My motivation for getting out of bed on a workday is that there is so much I would miss if I didn’t and I don’t like to miss out on anything in this dynamic, industry. The difference we have made in peoples lives all over the world during this pandemic is remarkable and I am so excited to be part of the journey.

What does a typical day entail for you?

We have an office in India and other staff that work internationally so my mornings are usually pretty busy prioritising them due to the difference in times zones.

Other than that, I don’t think there is any such thing as a ‘typical’ day, which is what I really enjoy about my job. Collaboration is vital in my role, so I spend a lot of time with various colleagues from across the organisation from planning campaign communications to product PR and overseeing the brand awareness. New ideas are key in the very dynamic environment we currently operate in, and we take every opportunity to discuss and explore them as much as possible.

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

Wellbeing! At the British Safety Council there is a huge focus on wellbeing in the workplace. If you look after the mental health and wellbeing of your workers, they are less likely to have accidents or become ill. I fully support this priority as I believe that we have not yet seen the full impact on mental health and wellbeing that the pandemic and multiple lock downs have had.

What skills are key to your role?

Communication skills are essential as marketing needs to collaborate across the whole organisation in order to deliver value. Prioritisation is also important as we are always busy and need to ensure that we can adapt in a quick and agile manner especially in times like we have seen over the last 18 months.

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

I moved into health and safety from a civil engineering company – health and safety is a top priority in this sector and the industry generally prides itself on maintaining best health and safety practice. This inspired me to focus my career more in this area and when a relevant post at the British Safety Council became available, I seized the opportunity, and the rest is history! I also have many years’ experience in the not-for-profit sector, so the British Safety Council seemed like the perfect fit!

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

GO for it! It is such an exciting time to be working in this industry. There have been many changes to health and safety over the last couple of years and in a post covid world the industry is moving quickly and innovating on a scale not seen in a long time. With all this in mind I would advise a person to keep an open mind to continuous learning as things are constantly changing and evolving.

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

We often laugh at work; I am incredibly fortunate that my colleagues have a great sense of humour. A couple of weeks ago – I was on a teams call and was looking down at my phone, sneakily replying to my emails, when the attendees all burst out laughing – I quickly looked up to see what was going on only to find my son trying to get himself in focus on my blurred Teams background by pulling silly faces behind me!

What is the best part of working in your field?

Definitely the people! Without a doubt – the commitment of the people in Health and Safety has been incredible over the last couple of years and many have worked long hours to ensure that people are as safe as possible during the pandemic.

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

With the current pandemic where it is, and the uncertainty that surrounds it we still don’t know what tomorrow will bring. The vaccine programme has been hugely successful however we still have a lot to learn to help employers ensure staff and workers are as safe as possible from the virus.

Wellbeing of workers is also a huge challenge for health and safety – workers who are happy and healthy are less likely to have accidents and more likely to be safe. The pandemic has had a huge impact on the mental wellbeing of many workers across the world so our challenge now is to try as best we can to support employers to mitigate risks around poor mental wellbeing.