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In the spotlight with David Harris
15 June 2021
This month we put David Harris in the spotlight and we discover that although he found himself in the health and safety industry purely by chance, he has since had many memorable successes including a trip to Windsor to watch his colleague receive an MBE from the Queen.
How did you get into the health and safety industry? Purely by chance. An old colleague from the Job Centre put me forward for a job with a ‘start up’ business Moving Edge Limited. I only went along because their office was half a mile from home!
That was 25 years ago on 1st May.
What do you enjoy most about your job? The old cliché really, every day is different, sometimes very different. There is a really great variety to what I do each day from dealing with manufacturing issues, production forecasting, financial management, setting up and running exhibition stands, site visits and presentations. The list is endless.
What do you think are the biggest challenges facing the health and safety industry in UK?
Brexit is an obvious current issue but I think that the set up and development of the UKCA whilst being quite a challenge could be a really positive development.
How do you think these challenges can be overcome?
Lead bodies such as BSIF, of which we are a member, continue to do a lot of work to help steer us through these issues. I have always found IOSH and other safety groups branches to be very effective at sharing information and best practice. Health and safety professionals seem to me to always be willing to freely help counterparts at other businesses if they can.
What sets The Safety Knife Company apart from it’s competitors?
There are lots of different products in the marketplace that offer the same level of safety and work in the same environments. Because we manufacture most of our product range, we are often able to modify products to meet specific customer needs. We can usually do this with little or no extra cost as well. We try to be easy to deal with. We don’t use automated switchboards so if you call us you actually get to speak to a person!! I also keep telling our staff, ‘don’t make it difficult for customers to buy from us’.
What are you most memorable successes at The Safety Knife Company?
The largest order we ever had was for knives used in mass decontamination kits. It was the equivalent to about three months sales at the time. The order came by fax which shows it was a while ago now. 10 minutes after that, another fax arrived with the first order for a large supermarket chain. This was another months worth of sales in one order. I’ve had worse Friday afternoons.
If you ever see a military transport aircraft, it will have an ‘extractor parachute cord cutter’ on board which we made for them. This was the best one off project we have been involved in.
But… watching the original Fish Knife inventor, Bill Ireland, receive his MBE from the Queen at Windsor Castle in 2014 tops them all.
What's next in the product pipeline for The Safety Knife Company?
Without giving too much away, we are about to launch a new product which will be aimed at reducing plastic waste from disposable enclosed blade safety knives. We have also recently been appointed exclusive distributor for the Nova Safety Products range in the UK and Ireland.
What's your vision for the future of The Safety Knife Company?
I want the company to continue to invest in developing new products and to bring them to market more efficiently. This is going to help us to continue to grow and provide employment opportunities for more people.
What do you think the medium term future holds for the safety industry globally?
I think that the safety industry could really thrive in the next few years. The pandemic has made everyone think about risk management and the measures undertaken in workplaces must have touched all employees. I hope that this inclusive process will foster a more positive view on health & safety in workplaces and give a boost to many areas of the safety industry.
What health and safety issues are you most passionate about?
Knife accidents fairly obviously. It is great to be involved in setting up a new Special Interest Group with BSIF with the aim of helping safety professionals and businesses tackle these issues. Watch this space on this one.
How can we entice more young talent to work in the health and safety sector?
It could just be me getting older, but I do seem to be dealing with a much younger cohort of safety professionals now. 25 years ago, a lot of people I met seemed to have been moved in to the health and safety office a year or so before retirement.
David Harris is general manager at The Safety Knife Company. For more information, visit www.safetyknife.net