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In the spotlight with Gavan Duff

24 May 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 Gavan Duff, VP and COO of Latchways - MSA - The Safety Company

1) What was your first job?

Working in a warehouse – picking, packing and despatching goods for customers – that’s where I got my first taste of the importance of doing things right for customers.

2) How did you get into the safety & health industry?

My first job was working for a safety company in Australia that manufactured PPE, and the organisation regularly provided product training/tool box talks to anyone who wanted to participate, so it was a rich learning environment. I took that opportunity and over the years developed an expertise in respiratory, hearing and industrial head protection products, which ultimately led to me becoming a technical sales representative for the company. 

As my career developed over the years I held several positions in sales/marketing and operations for manufacturers of fall protection products, before then spending time living overseas in Europe to take on senior business management roles. The development and learnings were a wonderful opportunity, and this then saw me move into executive and leadership positions within MSA.

3) Who, in any other industry, do you most admire and why?

Numerous people from the motor industry, and tech industry but the reasons have a common thread – they are innovation driven, have high emotional intelligence (EQ), are inspirational leaders, have a desire to develop and revolutionise industry norms, etc…

4) How would you improve the safety & health industry in the UK?

I’m a true believer that quality education and training are key elements to driving improvement in health and safety. However, I also believe it’s behavioural based, so the responsibility to create a better health and safety environment sits with each of us as individauls.  

5) What is the best way to combat negative attitudes towards health & safety?

Essentially, as mentioned earlier, I believe H&S is behavioural and therefore change-management needs to be at the forefront of the deliverables. One method that I’ve previously used is to create safety champions/ambassadors within an organisation who drive consistency with the message, while also making safety a visual “thing”. It does take time however, having a relentless pursuit for improvement and simply not accepting the status quo is fundamental.

6) What is the best advice you could give to someone new coming into the safety and PPE industry?

The industry is well-established, and this potentially leads to complacency/bad habits. Therefore, know your audience, material, and solutions – have the desire to make a difference and become that trusted advisor based on expertise, knowledge and competency in H&S.

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

The general economy is strong, investment is at the forefront of most government agendas and H&S is a must-have, regardless of issues such as Brexit. 

H&S is a tremendous field of expertise to have as there is potential to move into a variety of specialised areas within the discipline, so I see a very strong future where a focus on H&S will increasingly be embraced. 

8) Occupational health is a big part of the Health & Safety Executive’s (HSE) “Helping Britain Work Well” strategy. How do you think safety can retain the profile that it requires?

Critical to success is education, training and “policing” to ensure people are protected each and every day – whether that’s on a worksite, in an office, or at home undertaking DIY work. If H&S is established as a behavioural based programme then there is a very high probability that LTI’s will reduce, leading to a reduction in cost associated to injuries, deaths, etc., while also stimulating business activity and keeping people on the job, etc.

Safety will always have a profile, I think the focus on health will simply reinforce its importance and encourage better working behaviours.

9) Do you see the new sentencing guidelines on health and safety offences affecting businesses, yet? 

Not as yet. Unfortunately in many organisations I feel there is a general approach of “I’ll get it done when I have time” – one key area might be education on the consequences of H&S not being followed (there is awareness that has been created through media and material, but the consequences are maybe not enforced enough).