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A day in the life of Damian Testa

25 January 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 Damian Testa.

What is your job, and where do you work?

I am the head of policy and communications at the British Safety Council. Our offices are in Hammersmith, London, but we have been working from home since March 2020 due to national lockdowns.

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

Knowing that what I do makes a positive difference to people. Our founder James Tye was a pioneering campaigner who helped to transform the British way of life. His efforts led directly to the ground-breaking 1974 Health and Safety at Work Act, as well as the introduction of car seat belts. James’s work drives and inspires me to continue campaigning to protect workers well into the 21st century.

What does a typical day entail for you?

The great thing about my role is that no two days are the same. One day, I might be writing a press release, briefing note or a magazine article, the next I am planning a campaign to raise awareness of a key issue, engaging Ministers, MPs and Parliamentary committees or organising events.

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

I am currently leading campaigns on wellbeing and our Time to Breathe air pollution campaign.

The wellbeing campaign is seeking to support, guide and encourage more businesses to have effective wellbeing strategies, for Government to provide policy support and for society to put wellbeing first. We are helping employers navigate the multitude of advice on wellbeing and recently launched our Being Well Together programme. This is a new integrated solution for all of an organisation’s health and wellbeing needs. After all a happy worker is a productive worker.

Outdoor air pollution is a major environmental risk to health with 40,000 lives a year across the country being lost; this costs the economy £20 billion annually in healthcare and impact on businesses. Our Time to Breathe campaign is calling for:

  • The UK to adopt World Health Organisation (WHO) exposure limits for the main pollutants of nitrogen dioxide, particulate matter and ozone.

  • Improvement in air quality for outdoor workers. 

  • Improvements to pollution monitoring across the UK so that all regions have the same accuracy as London for emissions data.

What skills are key to your role?

Being able to write effectively on a range of topics and talk to and engage people are key skills for my role. Listening to the views of others is also important as it helps to identify a common way forward.

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

Throughout my career in policy and public affairs, I have supported highly regulated sectors such as transport and construction. These roles have focused on achieving a positive environment for businesses, be that through legislation or highlighting issues and the case for change. So before joining the British Safety Council, I had not worked in H&S directly. The industries I had been supporting all have H&S responsibilities and take safety seriously, as a failure to do so can sadly, at times, result in serious injury or fatality. So, moving to a role and organisation whose vision is that no one should be injured or made ill through their work seemed a natural fit.

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

It’s a great industry with lots of opportunity to develop and showcase your skills. Try to make what are dry topics sound interesting to a wider audience.

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

All the time! Banter with colleagues mostly or talking about work frustrations like IT.

What is the best part of working in your field?

Protecting workers from injury and helping to foster better wellbeing – let’s face it, we spend most of our lives at work, so best to make sure we enjoy it.

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

COVID – both its impact on wellbeing and the necessity for suitably robust COVID-19 workplace management arrangements, which has intensified since the highly transmissible new variant was identified in December, are a challenge. The impact of Brexit on workers’ rights, the environment and health and safety in the workplace is also up there, as the Government explores its new regulatory freedoms since the UK fully left the EU on 1 January.