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In the spotlight with Stuart Turnbull

07 March 2018

Every issue we put a BSIF member in the spotlight to share their thoughts on PPE and worker safety & health. This month we talk to Stuart Turnbull, managing director – UK & Ireland, and European sales leader – general safety products, Honeywell Industrial Safety

1) How did you get into the health and safety industry?

I was working for a Bristol-based office furniture supplier, when a friend of mine who worked in recruitment suggested I apply for a job with a leading safety glove manufacturer based in North London. After various interviews and what can only be described as direct and good advice from a friend’s father who was familiar with the company and some of the people there, I accepted a sales position. This was the start of my career in the safety industry and I will be celebrating my 30th anniversary this year. 

2) What do you enjoy most about your job? 

Overall, the responsibility for people’s safety and wellbeing in often challenging and dynamic environments: the noble cause of health and safety and the rapidly changing technologies that bring forth new innovative solutions. More recently, I’ve enjoyed being part of what will not only be a step change but a revolution in safety through new technologies, connectivity and data management. These are really exciting times and the pace of change is faster than I have ever experienced.   

3)  What do you think are the biggest challenges facing the health and safety industry in the UK?

The changing nature of the occupational workplace, in particular the notable shift in the way we employ people, with outsourcing and contingency becoming the norm. With this in mind, we need to ensure that accountability for people’s health and wellbeing, both physical and psychological, is maintained, and that training and education in these areas continues to be an integral part of any induction and understanding of an overall culture of safety. The second challenge comes from an adverse portrayal of health and safety in some parts of the media. It is a basic human right – you should be able to expect that you can arrive home as healthy as when you went to work.   

4)  In your opinion, how can these challenges be overcome?

I think that connected technologies can help address these challenges and help make sure that the health and safety industry continues to meet the needs of the evolving workplace. In the future, any piece of personal protective equipment from hard hats to gas masks can be connected, which translates to more advanced remote operating capabilities, better monitoring of workers and the environment they operate in, and ultimately to faster reactions to potential issues.  

When it comes to the challenge of the adverse portrayal of the industry in some parts of the media, the work BSIF does is crucial. They are the voice of our industry. It is their work that helps support the right and responsible image of the industry and everything we work to achieve. 

5)  How do we attract more talented young people to the health and safety industry?

Research shows that three out of four millennials believe that access to technology makes them more effective at work and over 40 per cent prefer to communicate electronically at work versus face-to-face or even over the telephone. This is something the industry needs to bear in mind not only in product development, but also in hiring, training and workplace development. For the millennials, an attractive workplace is a connected one.

As the industry moves progressively into the connected world using advanced technologies, interconnectivity and mobile solutions, we need to have a population of talent that understands these types of technologies and will be able to develop them further. This favours the new school and university leavers who have grown up not just using these technologies but also adapting to an ever-increasing pace of change. By offering young people a chance to take these skills they already use in their everyday lives and use them to develop even better solutions for the noble cause of protecting people wherever they may be at risk, we can continue to ensure that the health and safety industry presents a challenging, dynamic and fast-paced work environment that attracts new talent.

6)  What do you think the medium term future holds for the safety & health and PPE industry in the UK? 

In the coming months, the new PPE Regulation (2106/425) will come in force. The new regulation is important because, over time, it will drive continuous testing and improvement in PPE technology; giving employers, safety managers – and ultimately workers – more assurance that the PPE they’re using is entirely fit for purpose. In other words, there is the opportunity through processes and methodologies to constantly find new ways of reducing variability. 

However, whether the UK should continue to adhere to its guidelines post-Brexit remains to be seen. At the moment, BSIF are working hard to ensure that the UK safety and health industry continues to thrive even after Brexit, by lobbying all government departments to ensure that mutual recognition agreements for PPE standards are in place and the UK’s notified bodies are ready to face the potential changes. 

Technology-wise, the shift towards connected devices is evident across the industries and health and safety is no exception. Already, wireless technologies have made huge advances to safety through, for example, Bluetooth-enabled gas detectors that can be operated through smartphones. By continuing to develop technologies that combine enhanced safety, lower costs and improved working efficiency, we can help the UK’s industries remain competitive in a changing environment and prepare for future challenges, including the uncertainties of Brexit. 

7) What health and safety issues are you most passionate about?

Having travelled and been privileged to experience many occupational workplaces all over the world from mines in Africa to the oil industry in the Middle East, I remain passionate about a culture of safety. I have been impressed by many of the companies that operate in the most difficult conditions and have employees who face risk from fire, violence or simply their circumstances, in their domestic lives. However, once they arrive at their work place it all changes, because the company they work for has fully embraced an all-encompassing approach to health, safety and wellbeing. This is, and remains, my passion.