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‘How motherhood prompted my career change to health and safety’

Having a baby can change many things in your life. For one member of our Future Leaders Community, it inspired an exciting new professional journey. This was the career I didn’t know I needed, writes Rachel Clark.

When I had my child, I was working in a social housing role that focused on anti-social behaviour and criminal activity. This often meant dealing with domestic and child abuse and it was negatively impacting my mental health.

I knew that I needed a career change, but I didn’t know what.

I saw an advert for a part-time job as a facilities co-ordinator and just knew I had to take the leap. The hours would fit around childcare, and it offered a fresh opportunity.

I was successful and leapt into my new, unknown career.

While I got to grips with the role, a new head of health and safety was appointed and, because facilities and health and safety are often linked together, he became my manager.

This would become a key moment in my journey, as I was fascinated to learn what he was implementing and why. I asked him so many questions he suggested I study for an industry qualification.

It was the best advice, as I loved the subject. I was finally getting answers to my questions and learning about a whole new subject I was not even aware of before.

Once I passed the course, I was offered a role as health and safety adviser and started the career I didn’t know I needed.

I now have a rewarding career with Aster, based in South Somerset.

Without realising it, having a child had changed my mind, thought processes and, in particular, my hazard awareness. I saw danger in places I hadn’t before and was already actively using additional controls in my day-to-day life.

I was used to working with people from all walks of life and in a variety of situations, so I felt that my skillset fitted nicely into health and safety.

I genuinely want people to be safe at work and go home to their loved ones.

I joined IOSH as I learnt early in my career that it was where I could access advice and support, which was so important in helping me on my career journey.

I was automatically made a member of the IOSH Future Leaders Community. It’s so refreshing to read articles and gain support and advice from people early on in their careers, like me, and I feel that this representation really matters.

I now have more courses under my belt and am loving the challenges, rewards and making new professional relationships.

I like to involve my son and we see what hazards and controls we can spot when we go past building sites together. I was very proud when my he correctly identified a piece of scaffolding was missing its edge protection. He’s the occupational safety and health (OSH) professional of the future!

Sadly, too often employers can see working parents as a hinderance, but we have so many valuable skills, many of which we gain after becoming parents that can be applied to the workplace. These have made me the OSH professional I am today.

Rachel’s tip for people new to OSH

Take time to meet with as many colleagues from across the business as possible. Job shadow them to understand how they work and any challenges they face. This allows them to get to know you and so they are more likely to share their positive experience with colleagues and call on you if they need help or advice. This helps to establish a positive health and safety culture.

Rachel’s tip for working parents

Balancing work and bringing up a child is always going to be hard work. I chose to work for a company with an established agile and flexible working policy in place. I can work from home and have full autonomy over my calendar to enable me to fit site visits, school runs and report writing around childcare. Having a supportive and understanding manager has helped me immensely and the support of my partner is paramount in being able to keep things running as smoothly as possible.

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Ali Barlow
Content Officer +44 (0)116 257 3117
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