In the spotlight with Helen Jones
07 February 2022
This month we put Helen Jones in the spotlight to find out how she got into the world of health and safety.
How did you get into the health and safety industry?
I worked for 15 years in construction and facilities management as a chartered engineer. Health and safety was always paramount to what I did. When I left the construction industry, I wanted to do something different but still adjacent. I was approached about working with software, focussed on reducing accidents and incidents, changing outcomes, making a real difference and working with clients from sectors I understood. It felt like a logical next step and the right opportunity.
What do you enjoy most about your job?
Working with clients. I love working with different people from different companies and sectors. Their goals are generally the same – targeting zero accidents, aiming to reduce incidents, comply with legislation and secure supply chains. But the approach each organisation takes is different. That fascinates me. We put all this knowledge into our products so we can be the best in the industry. That means enhancing existing solutions and creating new ones.
What do you think are the biggest challenges facing the health and safety industry in UK?
Diverse workforce and ESG.
Every workplace employs people from different demographics, with language barriers, cultural differences, and many generations currently working alongside each other. They all absorb information differently and expect to receive information differently. Some only use modern technology to communicate and interact, others don’t use it at all. To get a strong health and safety culture, communication is paramount.
These differences make it incredibly difficult though to implement operational processes that cater for everyone. That’s a massive challenge when you’re trying to standardise approaches and make them scalable.
ESG topics are becoming more and more relevant and in many cases health and safety professionals are asked to pick up responsibility for them. As ESG covers such a wide range of topics, it can be a challenge to understand and manage these on top of the ‘usual’ health and safety
How do you think these challenges can be overcome?
Simple, intuitive technology can help overcome challenges linked to diverse workforces. But there is no one size fits all model. There has to be a degree of flexibility to truly overcome it and the impact being felt.
To solve the ESG challenge professionals tasked with solving it need training. The ESG platform we launched this year is one way to identify and address issues organisations are exposed to and helps tackle these which will enhance industry standards.
The industry serving health and safety professionals needs to evolve also – there are some clever solutions out there that can simplify and consolidate the full agenda
What sets Alcumus apart from its competitors?
We connect large and small companies, and we do this through a unique product mix and fantastic people.
Our people are all subject matter experts. We aren’t just a technology provider. We believe you must understand your subject intimately to build the right solutions for customers.
Our product mix is unique too. Whilst you can access single solutions like accident and incident tracking, which is pretty standard, you can expand this to cover audits, supply chain compliance, chemical management, ESG topics and much more. Our competitors cannot offer the holistic solution for health and safety professionals that Alcumus provides.
What’s next in the product pipeline for Alcumus?
We have recently launched an expansion to our Supply Chain compliance solutions which is very exciting. Organisations can effectively outsource th eir entire compliance requirements to us and gain full visibility of data, via a technology platform, across numerous topics including health and safety, environmental and social. The solution offers a mix of verification and accreditation so we can focus more on high-risk suppliers and have a dynamic solution for clients.
Our ePermits solution is undergoing a full refresh, so you can look forward to a full launch later this year. Such strong solutions are fundamental to avoid incidents and accidents by tracking who is working on your site.
Late last year, we launched a new, international ESG platform which enables businesses to build one true view of their ESG performance for the first time. It covers 11 topics relevant to ESG and provides simple data analysis. We will expand this with more focus around CDP, scope 3 carbon collection and modern slavery.
What’s your vision for the future of Alcumus?
Through our solutions we have a huge network within the UK of over 45,000 businesses. We connect organisations, big and small, by providing enhanced visibility and EHSQ and ESG software solutions. My vision is that this network grows and becomes the go-to place for professionals and their teams. This will ultimately achieve our overarching mission to create better workplaces and a safer and more sustainable world.
What do you think the medium-term future holds for the safety industry globally?
Covid changed the way people behave and want to work. With many people now working remotely, gaining visibility of health and safety standards is a new challenge. We know the pandemic and new way of working is negatively impacting mental health. HSE reported 451,000 new cases of work-related stress, depression or anxiety directly linked to it. Therefore, gaining visibility will be important to look after people’s health and safety appropriately.
On top of that, solving the social element on diverse workforce I mentioned already will dictate what health and safety professionals will be expected to do in the medium term.
What health and safety issues are you most passionate about?
Chemical management and compliance with COSHH regulations really interest me. I was always aware of the regulation when I worked in the industry and fortunately, our organisation had a great solution to help ensure we managed this risk. We actually used an Alcumus product that has helped companies minimise their exposure to chemical risks for over 40 years, but I did not know that then!
I am passionate about this subject which can easily be misunderstood and requires more awareness. While some effects from chemical exposure can be immediate and severe, there is a massive long-term risk with substances such as silica. I’m not convinced we do enough to avoid longer term health risks, so we run a series of webinars each year focussed solely on education. They are very well attended which tells me people are hungry to know more on this subject.
How can we entice more young talent to work in the health and safety sector?
Visibility of a career path is key here. Young people need to be able to see the steps and path they need to go through to reach their goals. As with most technical roles, experience is also key to progress and move through the ranks. Being able to create programmes that offer exposure to different sectors, divisions and areas shows a strong level of commitment to candidates. It’s also important to appeal to as wide a talent pool as possible – a strong flexible working policy is fundamental to attracting talent across all roles and it’s no different here. Candidates and young people, in particular, expect more flexibility to work the way they want to, while meeting business objectives. This may be difficult to accept for many of us who started our careers in a different time, but it’s now the reality and we must evolve.
Helen Jones is chief operating officer – enterprise at Alcumus. For more information, visit www.alcumus.com