OSHCR recently spoke to the youngest female OSHCR-registered consultant, Jyssica Murphy, who is a Health and Safety advisor at Courtley Health and Safety.

Here, she discusses her background in health and safety, the gender split within the industry and the importance of engaging a younger audience – to encourage the next generation into a career in the health and safety sector.

Hello Jyssica! Tell us about your background and how you ended up in health and safety.
I left school at 16 and didn’t have a clue what I wanted to do. It was quite scary. At the time I didn’t want to go straight into university, and none of the apprenticeships available stood out to me, but then I came across a Laboratory Technician apprenticeship and decided to give it a try.
I attended college one day a week and worked the rest of the time, learning on the job. The company was a hazardous waste management company, and a chemical recycling plant, so health and safety was high on their agenda. I shadowed the H&S manager who sparked my interest in safety; following this, I enrolled on the NEBOSH general certificate course in my own time and thoroughly enjoyed it. I knew then I had a passion for health and safety.

Do you think there’s an equal gender split in the industry?
I think the industry does have more of a male presence; however, over the last few years in particular, there seem to be a lot more females getting into health and safety. I’ve met lots of women at networking events and EXPOs; but, some of the industries I work in, such as construction, manufacturing and engineering, are still lacking a strong female presence in all roles.

How does it fare being a female in the industry and do you think it has changed at all?
I think it depends on the individual; I think every health and safety practitioner, whether male or female, has to have certain attributes to be a good professional. You must be able to communicate effectively and assert yourself when required. Health and safety is a diverse sector to work in, and as a woman, I have always felt respected and valued, and whilst I cannot comment on what the industry was like ten years ago, it certainly is an accepting place to work now.

What are the key challenges for women working in health and safety?
As a woman, it can be difficult to engage people sometimes, especially on construction sites. They may initially feel that a woman would not understand their role as a construction professional, such as a joiner or plasterer, as I have never been one. However, I simply let them know that I am there from a health and safety perspective and want to understand how they do the job. Together we often find control measures to make the tasks safer and more efficient.
I also feel age can be an additional challenge; people think that because I am young, I must not have sufficient experience or I don’t possess higher qualifications. This isn’t the case, as I work for over 150 companies; my experience is vast and very diverse and I have the qualifications to boot.

How much value do you think customers/consumers place on using the OSHCR register?
I think more and more value is being placed on the OHSCR register. It often appears in Tender questionnaires; companies want to engage people who have an OHSCR-registered consultant assisting them with their health and safety. It must give them some peace of mind that the role is being carried out by a competent person. I think it’s a great tool for people to use, as they may not be confident in their industry knowledge when engaging a health and safety professional.

What would people be surprised to learn about working in health and safety?
That it can actually be interesting, and not boring like some people would have you believe! No two days in my role are the same; for instance, it can go from carrying out a site inspection on a multi-million pound city centre development, to carrying out risk assessments for a major sea freight specialist, or assisting a care home with their fire safety. Every client I work with is diverse and the role lets you meet lots of people and see lots of places. I get to travel a lot, and particularly enjoy working in Ireland for one of our clients.

How important is it to get young people interested in a possible career in health and safety?
Now that the industry has encouraged females to dive into health and safety roles, I think the next target should be to engage the younger generation. At only 24, I can sometimes find myself the youngest in a room at safety events or client meetings, but I think it can add a fresh approach to things. The younger generation are very technologically advanced and we could utilise this in the health and safety industry, so we should be trying to show young people a new career prospect they may never have considered before.