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In the spotlight - Frank Angear

10 December 2018

BSIF general manager Frank Angear is set to retire after a remarkable 45-year career in health and safety. HSM sat down with him to take a look back on how the sector has changed during his career.

How long have you been with BSIF and what is your role?

I joined BSIF in February 2012, so I’ve been with the Federation for close to seven years. My position is general manager which, as we’re quite a small team, is a pretty accurate title. One of my primary roles is to act as secretariat for all our Special Interest Groups (SIGs), which are organised by product category. Each one meets between two and four times a year and I arrange meeting venues and dates, set agendas, produce minutes, manage meeting documents, etc. But otherwise my role is very general and varied, meeting with industry stakeholders to promote the interests of our members and the importance of good safety and health practices.

How did you get into the H&S industry?

I joined a company called Martindale Protection in 1973 as a trainee manager destined to take over its sales office, but after a year of training I was offered a choice of managing the sales office or getting into a sales role, and I chose the latter. The rest, as they say, is history

Why do you feel now is the right time to retire?

I’ve been in the safety and health industry for 45 years. That’s longer than the Health & Safety at Work etc. Act! I still thoroughly enjoy all aspects of my job but I figured if I didn’t actually set a date and make the change, I’d still be doing this years from now as I slowly faded away. I have other things to do with my life so I’m going to make a start on them.

What do you plan to do in your retirement?

I will keep active with things like walking football (very trendy) and table tennis, and I’m going to learn to play the piano. I’ve played guitar since I was a teenager so I can mess about and get a tune out of a keyboard, but I’d really like to be able to play one much better. And of course holidays will get longer and more frequent. I also have a six-year-old grandson, Eddie Frank, who I am sure will help to keep me busy.

How has the BSIF changed since you joined?

The Federation’s profile and reputation has grown, and continues to grow, significantly. Our team is larger than when I started, and will continue to increase as our ambitions stretch our resources. External relationships have enjoyed very positive development and we are more of a ‘player’ than ever before.

What are your biggest achievements?

One is getting BSIF a seat around ‘the table’. Together with our CEO, first David Lummis and now Alan Murray, and along with the rest of our team, I have helped establish our rightful place as a voice of the industry. The Federation is now automatically one of the organisations called upon for comment and input on safety and health matters.

Another is the increased support and opportunities I have helped develop for our members. Being a member of the BSIF affords a real differentiator over competitors who are not members, and by providing initiatives which clearly demonstrate an organisation’s commitment to highly ethical trading values, the BSIF is promoting quality of service and product, and driving less scrupulous operators out of the market.

Another is representing UK interests overseas, firstly as part of the UK delegation with BEIS and HSE at meetings of the PPE Working Group at the EU Commission, and secondly as UK Principle Expert at ISO meetings which develop international product standards. I’m pleased to say the set of standards I worked on are now in the final stages of completion before being published.

But the biggest one? That’s easy. It’s meeting and getting to know loads of marvellous people who I’ve become associated with over the years from such a rewarding industry, and genuinely being able to count them as friends as well as colleagues. That’s an achievement I will always remember.

What H&S issues are you most passionate about?

Helping end users select the most appropriate products for their situation. The biggest issue in safety and health is an apparent inability to get the necessary information to the point where products are chosen.

There is, by the nature of our industry, a lengthy distributor chain that in many instances results in product going through a number of organisations before it reaches the point where the end user buys it. A great concern of mine is that the depth of knowledge and ability to advise and assist selection does not follow the product all the way from its originator to the final customer, which means end users often don’t have sufficient information to make sure the product they choose is the most appropriate one for the application they plan to use it for. Most concerning, they have no way of knowing that they don’t have sufficient information: You don’t know what you don’t know.

How much has the H&S sector changed during your career?

When I started there were individual standards for each country, so the introduction of a single set of European standards that the whole industry worked to was an enormous change. I guess the other biggest change has been the number of smaller producers who have been swallowed up by some pretty large multi-nationals, and we now have a very big size range of organisations on the supply side.

For users in industry, regulations and requirements have changed a lot, mostly because our UK industries have changed so much. It is a wholly justifiable aim that risks should be eliminated and the need to use PPE become obsolete, but as fast as risks for one application are reduced a new set for new uses is created, so PPE will always be required to some extent.

What are the biggest challenges facing the industry?

I’d go back to the issues I described above. In an ideal world a user looking to buy PPE at any outlet, whether it’s a trade counter, telephone sales or a website, should be given the same advice about selection and use as he or she would get from the original manufacturer or first line distributor. Until dissemination of this level of knowledge is automatic with every enquiry or potential sale, we continue to run the risk that, while correctly performing PPE is available, a significant percentage of it will not be used where and when it should, or it will be used incorrectly.

How do you think these challenges can be overcome?

Raising awareness of the issue, and then training. Producers already offer large amounts of training and education, and this could no doubt be expanded further if a suitable proportion of marketing budgets were allocated to it, but those in the chain need to make sure the supply of product is always accompanied by the training necessary to equip their customer facing staff to supply the most appropriate products.

What's next for the BSIF?

The BSIF initiatives around correct product performance and H&S industry training will continue to grow and strengthen. We strongly believe that users of PPE deserve good quality products from a capable and knowledgeable supply chain, and our members clearly support this. This is fast becoming the expected norm and suppliers who don’t want to demonstrate these values will increasingly fall by the wayside.  

What is the legacy that you leave behind at BSIF?

Simple. The difference between what it could do when I joined, and what it can do now. I haven’t been solely responsible for that by any means, we have grown the Federation’s capabilities as a team, but I’m proud to say that I’ve played my part in its development and I am confident it will continue to go from strength to strength.

Frank Angear is the general manager of the BSIF. For more information, visit www.bsif.co.uk