Graham Cowan, safety and standards assurance director at Nuffield Health and owner of consultancy firm GJC Risk Management, charts his career up to and including becoming a chartered fellow of IOSH.
It was while working as a self-defence instructor at Humberside Police in the 1990s that I first gained a real taste for safety and health. It soon became clear that it was a career direction which was right for me. I firmly believe that employers should be safeguarded no matter what the industry they work in.
That is why, from when I left the police force in 2002, I went into that field. Fast forward 14 years and I can now proudly look back on my achievements, right up to becoming a chartered fellow of IOSH.
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Before working for the force I was a medic in the Army, doing active service in the first Gulf War, and in 2004 I provided medical training and support within close protection security teams who provided escort security during the Iraq reconstruction project. So I had plenty of experience of working in safety critical organisations.
My other experience has included running my own training and consultancy organisation specialising in safety and health and being responsible for safety and health at Alfred McAlpine. I joined Nuffield Health in 2010. Among my achievements there has been the successful accreditation of the safety and health management system to the OHSAS 18001 standard.
Since going into safety and health I have learned very quickly and progressed fast. But despite progressing into high levels within organisations I still like to get involved and be on the ground. When I was at Alfred McAlpine you would often find me at construction sites.
Throughout my time working in safety and health I have always wanted to keep myself up to date. This, to me, is crucial in being able to do my job well and ensure the people I work with are kept safe and healthy. It was this desire which led to me joining IOSH. I had done the Managing safely course, which had given me a flavour for the safety and health world. Being a member of IOSH has been a real assistance to my career.
The institution runs some great events which you can attend and really helps out with your career development.
Now I have progressed into being a chartered fellow. I was over the moon when I found out the news. As well as being an IOSH fellow, I have also served as a trustee of the British Safety Council since 2013 and now chair the policy and communications committee.
I didn’t have the best of upbringings but I joined the Army and got discipline and a routine, as well as a drive to better myself all of the time.
Since going into safety and health I haven’t looked back. It has been a great career so far. And gaining fellowship is the cherry on top of the cake.
I would advise anyone making their way in the OSH world to really concentrate on their CPD. You should listen to any advice you are given and take any opportunities which are presented to you.
Essentially don’t be frightened to look for opportunities that stretch you personally and professionally. Above all, believe in yourself.