One step ahead: why OSH people can’t stop giving


If there are givers and takers in this world then occupational safety and health (OSH) professionals invariably fall into the former category. The dedication, not to say passion, they bring to their work inevitably carries over into their ‘off-duty’ lives, delivering wide and varied benefits to their local communities.

For the first profile in our ‘Bus Driver’s Holiday’ series, we asked Steve Thomas, Health, Safety and Wellbeing Lead at IOSH, to tell us about how he applies his professional skills, his OSH DNA, outside the day job.

I chose to pursue a career in OSH because the ethics appeal to me – the heart of the profession is about supporting people and helping them to be safe, healthy and to thrive at work. Of course, this extends to life outside the workplace too, and I apply the learning I have gained in many different ways.

At a very basic level, I often find that I follow risk assessment principles without really being aware of it. For example, I love hiking in the great outdoors with friends and family and I’m usually the best prepared, making sure routes are downloaded to phones, carrying plasters in case of blisters and taking extra torch batteries if we’re out after sundown.

On becoming a father in 2013, I became even more mindful of safety risks in the home; seeing the world through the eyes of a toddler with no risk awareness changes your outlook somewhat, and don’t get me started on trip hazards from toys constantly left on the floor or the stairs. Also, those Lego bricks really hurt when you step on them barefoot!

Helping people

I’ve used my experience of OSH management to help people and local organisations outside of work with policies, risk assessments and templates as well as giving advice on issues they may be facing. When I do I try to keep my focus on getting them to understand OSH concepts and seek out authoritative guidance rather than me doing the work for them, which has a much greater impact.

Like many OSH professionals my development has led me towards environmental management, and nowadays I talk to people outside of work more about sustainable development. I tend to find that OSH resonates especially well when you discuss it alongside topics such as environmental sustainability, good work, wellbeing and equality.

Outside of my job at IOSH I also volunteer for IOSH as a member, helping with category transfer audits for other members seeking to move through the membership grades.

What next?

Now that the kids are older and I find myself with a little more free time, I’m looking for opportunities to do impactful voluntary work. I’m currently going through the process of becoming a governor for a local secondary school and I’m hoping that my experience with strategic OSH and sustainability principles will prove useful to them. I’m also looking into doing further volunteering work for IOSH, such as peer review interviews for Chartered membership.

Steve Thomas CMIOSH

Steve worked for 20 years in business consultancy before joining IOSH in 2018. He also has experience in quality and environmental management

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Jeremy Waterfield
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