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A day in the life of Cath Hare

26 May 2017

Each issue HSM puts the spotlight on worker health protection by speaking to a member of BOHS about the challenges and rewards of working in the field of worker health protection. In this issue we talk to Cath Hare, operations manager at Alcumus COSHH.

What is your job, and where do you work?

I’m currently operations manager at Alcumus COSHH. My team focuses on COSHH and occupational hygiene monitoring, and operates from our Aylesbury branch. As the manager of the field consultants working within the CMS and occupational hygiene teams, it is my responsibility to ensure that the teams fully understand their duties and are suitably equipped to do the work required of them. I have over 10 years’ experience as a practising occupational hygienist, and have undertaken an array of specialist work, including: risk to health arising from noise and vibration assessments; legionella assessment surveys; hazardous substances; and the thermal environment.

What motivates you to get out of bed on a work day?

The dog who is waiting for his 6am walk!

What does a typical day entail for you?

My working week is generally split between time in the office and time on site. Site arrival time is predominantly based upon the client’s requirements and the shift system employed on site. Early starts or late finishes are always possible and site days are rarely 9-5. I generally attend site to establish the cause of a problem, and we often return to site to carry out the monitoring itself.

Recent visits have involved identifying the source of aromas emanating from an industrial business unit, testing on site extraction systems and visiting a college to assess their levels of noise and dusts within their woodworking areas. Each day is varied and I never know what it will hold!

What is your favourite, or most important, piece of work equipment?

The calibrator for all items of monitoring equipment – without these I would be lost and our measurements null and void.

What item would you be lost without at work?

Duct tape – it can be used in so many ways! 

What route did you take to working in the field of worker health protection?

After A-levels I did a degree in occupational health and safety management. When I graduated I joined Alcumus on their COSHH helpdesk. After around three years, I specialised in occupational hygiene, completed the BOHS modules and also became a qualified asbestos surveyor. My career has grown ever since, with the underlying principle of protecting people’s health.

What advice would you give a person thinking of working in the area of worker health protection?

Never lose sight of what your primary aim is; you’re there to make sure that employers keep their staff healthy and safe. Technologies move on therefore it’s important to make time for your own learning and development. Being a member of BOHS can assist greatly in ensuring you keep up to date. It helps you maintain your knowledge, brings to your attention hot topics, and also allows you to tap into the brains of other members who may be able to share information.

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

We were looking through the archives at old staff photos today. I’m definitely older and wiser than I was!

What is the best part of working in the field of worker health protection?

No two days are the same. Each day brings a new challenge and may involve different techniques or ways of carrying out an assessment - but all with the underlying principle of preventing ill health. I love being able to make a difference, provide a fresh pair of eyes, and make recommendations which can potentially prevent people from becoming ill.

Being able to understand the ultimate goal, or the restraints of the client, is also a key aspect in ensuring sure the work we carry out is successful. I love meeting with clients and staff alike to understand the way a business operates. No two companies are the same, what suits one client is unlikely to suit the next. I enjoy the challenge of finding ways to fulfil the brief without adversely impacting upon any other areas of the business (production, productivity etc).

What do you see as the biggest challenges to worker health protection currently? 

Ensuring that our industry remains ahead of technology; understanding and appreciating the risks of new products, systems and procedures will always require some level of reactiveness, but turning around the hazards and risks to be a proactive environment is key to our continued success. Education at all levels has always been a big challenge, and Management commitment is vital. Even though it’s now over 40 years since the introduction of the Health and Safety at Work Act, and nearly 20 years since the “six pack,” cultures still need to change. We are getting there, but there’s still always room for improvement!