David Pope completed his NEBOSH certificate in 2021, which qualifies him as Persona's new Health and Safety Building Compliance Officer.
He came to the role from a Day Care Officer role at Grundy Day Centre in 2019 and had already progressed within both these roles, as a Mental Health First Aider, Unison Rep and Employee Forum Rep.
David is 'over the moon' about his achievement. 'The course was delayed by the pandemic, so ticking it off feels like a milestone moment in my career. Even though I'm no longer in a care role, I still do what I do to make sure our services are the best they can be for our people.'
Could you give us a bit of background on your career with Persona?
I’ve been with Bury Council and then Persona for 12.5 years now. I started as a care assistant at Grundy Day Centre back in 2008 when I was new to the working world and only had 6 months of care experience under my belt. At the time I thought of it as a job I was really lucky to get, but I didn’t think of it as a career, but more of a plug-the-gap job that I could do until I decided what I wanted to do with my life. Well I absolutely loved working at Grundy and I was soon trying to think of ways to progress my career in care. It’s always been the people that keep me coming back, both the staff and people we support. And even though I’m no longer in a care-facing role I still do what I do to make sure our services are the best they can be for our people.
I’m now the Health and Safety Building Compliance Officer (no longer a trainee, with my new qualification!). This means that I’m responsible for ensuring that we complete all our statutory maintenance checks in our buildings (like having your fire extinguishers checked every year). I also carry out accident investigations when needed, and monitor the accidents and incidents that occur in our services, and when needed recommend steps to be taken to avoid further accidents. I help Persona to consult the workforce on health and safety matters by bringing information to the health and safety committee, and I’m also available to speak with and advise any member of staff that has a query or concern. I also maintain a central library of occupational risk assessments (such as COSHH assessments) that can be used in any of our services. If you have a health and safety question drop me an email!
What is the qualification you’ve just completed?
I just completed the NEBOSH general certificate in Occupational Health and Safety. The course is the equivalent of an A level, and the learning was all crammed into November, with a final exam taking place in December.
There were 2 full weeks of (virtual) classroom learning, which came with quite a bit of homework. There was also an additional study day, which focused on the exam itself. I took a week off on annual leave and did about 30ish hours of study. Then we had to take an open book exam which we were given 24 hours to complete. This took me 10 hours! Admittedly I took my time with both reading and writing, because as a dyslexic person I know I often make mistakes and misread things, and I ended up proofreading the whole thing twice. Fitting all the information needed into the limited word count was probably one of the hardest aspects of this exam, as exceeding the word count (3300 words) was an automatic fail, and I’d originally written over 4100 words.
Finally, I had to submit a detailed risk assessment based on my workplace that covered a number of different areas and hazards. Unlike the exam this was just pass or fail; you either met all the criteria or you didn’t. This exercise probably took 8 to 10 hours.
How did Persona support you to do this qualification?
Couldn’t have been more supportive. Persona funded the course, and our workforce development officer Sue Partington helped me to pick the education provider and course that suited me. I was also given time off work to attend the course, and my manager Debbie Timmins granted me annual leave to study for my exam, even though it was a busy period for our team. Persona also had our fantastic health and safety consultant Elaine Pritchard who was doing the health and safety role while I was still learning, and she also provided me with lots of support from a mentoring perspective.
How do you feel about achieving this qualification?
Over the moon. It was a lot of hard work, and it’s a nationally recognised qualification that enables me to be a competent health and safety officer. I was also delayed by months in starting the course by the pandemic, so ticking it off my to-do list feels like a milestone moment in my career.
What impact will this qualification have on your current role?
Before this qualification, I wouldn’t have been considered to be a “competent person” in the eyes of the law, so I couldn’t actually sign off on any health and safety work I was doing. Luckily we had our fab consultant elaine who was there to guide and teach me as well as sign off on any work we’d completed once it had been reviewed by her expert eyes. Now I have this qualification I am considered competent, and I can continue my training and development.
From a practical perspective, this course provided me with detailed knowledge around risk, and also taught me how to find the information I need to use when working on any particular area. Health and Safety is so vast, and these days there’s less emphasis on being able to memorise loads of regulations because you’re able to easily look them up. Instead the focus is on putting principles into practice, and knowing where to find the information you need.
What’s the best thing about your job?
It challenges me, and allows me to utilise some of my natural talents. As much as there is very much a day job element it also keeps you on your toes because you’ve no idea what each day might bring.
Click to read other staff members' experiences of gaining a qualification while they worked.