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In the spotlight with David Head

14 April 2022

This month we put Draeger's David Head in the spotlight to find out how he found himself working in the world of health and safety.

How did you get into the health and safety industry?

I started my career in the safety industry nearly 15 years ago. I previously worked in the machine tools sector but made an active decision to move into technical safety. It was definitely a good move - I really enjoy being part of an industry that is ultimately responsible for bringing people home to their families each night by keeping them safe. That gives a lot of job satisfaction!

What do you enjoy most about your job?

On a day-to-day level, I really enjoy sharing knowledge and supporting both our customers and our internal team. I get a buzz from looking at how we can enhance the safety provisions and find the right solution to a safety issue.

I enjoy the consultancy approach which we take. It’s not just about our products but how we support our customers’ risk assessment, map out their needs and look at the hazards, how we interact with other systems and how our solution can be used to improve overall safety standards, as well as ensuring the system is serviced so it continues to protect people.

What do you think are the biggest challenges facing the health and safety industry in UK?

There is huge demand for safety data and the advances in Industry 4.0 means that those responsible for Health and Safety are also responsible for this data and the information it offers to improve safety within the company. This is creating a huge challenge but also an opportunity for the industry.

Industry 4.0, and the growing digitalisation of traditional manufacturing and industrial practices has the potential to have a significant impact on workplace safety. Recent advances include the use of wireless technology and wearable devices to protect those working in hazardous environments and sensors on safety monitoring equipment to inform important maintenance and servicing schedules.

The Draeger Safety at Work Report 2021 highlighted that the take up of using this data in a meaningful way is, so far, limited and indicated a slow adoption of the industry of accessing and using the information available in order to improve safety in the workplace. 

Our research found that only a third (34%) of managers in the manufacturing and industrial sectors believe that their organisations are advanced in accessing and acting on improved availability of safety data which is available through this technology.

And when it comes to development and continual improvement, less than half (48%) of managers believed that their organisation is making progress. So we have a long way to go but this data has the potential to improve safety practices and in turn, to save lives. 

How do you think these challenges can be overcome?

I’m optimistic and believe that the health and safety industry, and our customers, are on a journey to turn this round. There is a thirst for this information, particularly in times of greater hybrid working and the industry is coming under more pressure to adapt and increase utilisation of new forms of data. 

What sets Drager apart from its competitors?

Drager is an international market leader in fixed gas detection with a reputation based on 130 years of experience in protecting lives and more than 50 years in the fixed gas sector. However, our focus is always our customers and providing the right solution for their business through the support of our experienced and highly skilled team. 

Finding this solution is our priority and we work hard to provide a bespoke, consultative approach. Once the solution has been identified, our products and components come into play, providing the quality and reliability of British and German engineering. This means that when it comes to the cost of ownership, our devices provide excellent value for money. For example, Drager’s electro-chemical sensors typically last a long time, we’ve had oxygen sensors which have lasted 10 years in some applications, as opposed typically a year or two.

What’s your greatest successes at Drager?

Without doubt my team and its ongoing development has given me greatest satisfaction. I’m extremely proud of them and enjoy working together to develop safety solutions for our customers. 

What’s next in the product pipeline for Drager?

I would say that the move towards wireless gas detection is going to be significant. To many who have worked in the safety industry for a long time, it may seem alien to have a gas detector which isn’t linked by wires, so we’ll need to build trust in this approach but there are many advantages. So as confidence in this type of system builds, I believe we’ll see a wholesale move to wireless, and away from miles of cables.

We’ll be working with our customers to build this trust and believe that new technology will provide a fully connected, smart wireless gas detection solution which will offer optimised safety and cost efficiency. It will also offer the reliable data transmission and data security which will be key to ensuring industrial and plant safety. While Smart Safety solutions with wireless gas detectors sending data over a cloud-based system will allow for faster information transfer, flexibility and transparency in the event of an incident. 

What’s your vision for the future of Drager?

As mentioned earlier, the impact of Industry 4.0 brings significant opportunities for the industry. I believe that connectivity is the future – creating one eco-system which will deliver fixed and portable gas detection, as well as asset management.

I firmly believe that the introduction of smart products will mean that self-testing of gas detectors is not too far away. So, watch this space!

What do you think the medium term future holds for the safety industry globally?

We are in unchartered waters at the moment as hybrid working is rapidly becoming the norm for many in the workforce. As a result, safety becomes more significant for employers. We’re already seeing changes in this area as HSE has ruled that sites are responsible for contractors as well as employees, and we will see more changes to responsibilities in the next few years.

What health and safety issues are you most passionate about?

I believe that education is key. At Drager we say that everything we do is for life so it’s essential that we make certain that people are educated on safety. 

In terms of what is coming up, gas mapping is going to be very important and is an area which I feel very excited about. This technology will allow us to map out workspaces and to demonstrate the best solution for the customer.

How can we entice more young talent to work in the health and safety sector?

This comes back to education and also supporting and encouraging young people.

Draeger is very keen to inspire the next generation of engineers and consequently we have worked very closely with the Engineering faculty at the University of Aberdeen for the past few years, providing support to students who will work in the industry in the future. We also offer apprenticeships and regularly hold Open Days and visits to our UK manufacturing site in Blyth, Northumbria.

Ultimately, the new opportunities which come with role of Industry 4.0 and the introduction of smart tech and wireless technology will, I believe, draw the younger generation, as well as encourage more diversity, into the industry. 

David Head is senior marketing manager for Draeger Fire & Gas Detection Systems and Safety Segments, UK & Ireland. For more information, visit www.draeger.com