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In the Spotlight with Rob Bullen

03 August 2023

This month we put HandsHQ's Rob Bullen CFIOSH in the spotlight to find out his thoughts on the world of health and safety.

How did you get into the health and safety industry?

I think like many people, I fell into it. I graduated during the 2008 financial crisis and took up a role within recruitment, where I was nominated as their safety rep. I became interested in safety and was very fortunate to be accepted onto a health and safety graduate scheme with a leading defence contractor. I met some great mentors there who were able to develop my career and I spent 10 years within construction safety before moving into the tech industry from 2020.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

It’s probably a cliche however, I love the variety and social aspect to my role. I really enjoy delivering a range of health and safety services to support my customers. Whether it’s drafting RAMS, completing an audit, or training; no two days are the same! 

Often, people assume our role to be quite a dry but you end up meeting interesting people and get involved in some fulfilling experiences. Without a career in safety, I wouldn’t have been able to fly a red arrow simulator, see the world’s largest solar farm in Egypt, or view London from the very top of the Shard! 

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

I do predict an upskilling challenge amongst health and safety professionals. As industry changes, more is going to be expected of us with boards more interested in environmental, social, governance and enterprise risk management. 

Specifically, there will be a huge challenge over the next 18 months to comply with Building Safety Regulation and managing potential effects from any EU withdrawal Bill outcomes. It feels like a dynamic and challenging time right now for all industries. 

How do you think these challenges can be overcome?

These issues are already being recognised amongst thought leaders from the profession and I’m seeing some positive discussions and advice appearing online.

I think the industry is attempting to respond to the challenge of capturing and sharing better risk management through the ‘Discovering Safety’ movement. Supported by the HSE, its objective is to help leverage better safety decisions using an evidence-based approach. 

I think generative AI may also have a role to play in these challenges and we have seen exponential growth in the use of this technology. If we accept that these tools need proper coaching themselves and view them as a career-enhancing, rather than a career-limiting tool, AI may help us improve risk identification, communication and management. 

What sets HandsHQ apart from its competitors?

Our RAMS software is a best in class platform; It’s not a swiss army knife for digitising every aspect of safety - we don’t want to be! By focussing on safe systems of work and competency, we’re able to help our customers continuously improve their safety management from the foundations upwards.

It’s not one element that sets us apart from the competition, but a combination of our core product features and values as a business. Aside from the obvious cost and time savings, our customers love that our products are user-friendly and help them to achieve their digitalisation goals. This, with our customer centric culture, exceptional customer service and collaborative approach to product development are what really differentiates us. 

What are your most memorable successes at HandsHQ?

The one that I remember the most was the covid risk assessments I produced and updated when new guidance emerged. They were downloaded more than 25,000 times so it was a pleasure to be able to give something back to the wider community and help businesses navigate through some very challenging and unprecedented risks.

I also thoroughly enjoyed setting up a new professional services department to improve the quality of technical health and safety support that our 2,000 customers receive. It’s been great to resume these services on a face-to-face level post covid, and I have built some long lasting relationships with a range of health and safety professionals. 

What’s next in the product pipeline for HandsHQ?

We make our product roadmap public for everyone to see. Anyone can visit our website and see what we are working on right now, what’s in a R&D phase and what has been recently released. It’s a positive way of working as we receive direct input from our customers and beyond to inform us which new solutions/features are going to actually add real value to the industry.

I’m most excited about our dashboard reporting capability which will make our data more visible to customers to make better decisions about their RAMS and training. I also like our recent API functionality, which means our system can communicate with customer’s existing IT systems to make it easier to integrate and manage systems across the business.

What’s your vision for the future of HandsHQ?

HandsHQ has already been around for 10 years! We started out with a portfolio of small businesses and have grown to include a large portfolio of enterprise level businesses, so we are proud that we remain a scalable solution. 

HandsHQ wants to remain a trusted business with a positive culture, who’s products continue to flourish alongside our customers to remain best in class for RAMS. 

What health and safety issues are you most passionate about?

I’m most passionate about succession planning; the skills gap within construction is still widening. Without those great mentors I mentioned, I wouldn’t be where I am now and I’m grateful for the support and coaching I’ve had to date. Being a Fellow of IOSH, I continue to look for ways that I can give back to the community and help better our industry. I think my other passion which will resonate with other professionals is the motivation to get safe systems of work right for businesses. I support the Health & Safety Masters programme at the University of Birmingham and the research focussing on risk management clearly

tells me we still have a long way to go for companies to make risk assessments work for them. 

Rob Bullen CFIOSH is senior environment health safety (EHS) specialist at HandsHQ. For more information, visit www.handshq.com