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Why I volunteer with IOSH Council

This time last year, Dr Jonathan Backhouse CFIOSH was still deciding whether to apply to join IOSH Council. Fast forward 12 months and he has already reaped the benefits of volunteering in this important role. Here, he shares his story to encourage and inspire other members to do the same.

My professional and academic journey

Earlier this year, I passed the milestone of being self-employed for 20 years. I almost skipped over this. I am sure it is impressive, but it is just who I am.

I am a self-employed occupational safety and health consultant (CFIOSH), trainer (holding QTLS status), fire risk assessor (MIFireE) and an author (of three books and more than 40 articles).

I have gained a comprehensive range of experience providing occupational safety and health (OSH) consultancy and writing fire risk assessments, supporting a wide range of clients across the UK. Alongside this I develop, deliver and assess an extensive range of qualifications, both worldwide and online. My qualifications include an undergraduate degree, a master’s degree and a professional doctorate.

While I have a significant range of qualifications, I’m unsure if any really benefit my role on Council. What did help initially was working with an assigned IOSH Mentor, who explained more about how the Council works, my role and responsibilities. 

Why I wanted to join IOSH Council

In 2010, I was asked to volunteer with the IOSH Tees Branch. Since then, I have held various roles, including Branch Chair (2020–2021), and volunteered in other capacities, for example as a Peer Review Interviewer. Volunteering has provided incredible opportunities to develop my skills and gain experience beyond what I would have been able to do as a self-employed safety and health professional.

So last year, I put myself forward to join IOSH Council. In one way, it was a natural step forward. Yet I don’t think I would have applied if Louise Hosking (President) hadn’t encouraged me. And I realised I could gain even more benefits from widening my volunteering experience.

The election processes

For me it was all about the preparation. The process was straightforward, but I needed to do a lot of research about the Council, governance, etc. 

I attended two or three Zoom calls with Louise, which I appreciate not everyone can do, and read as much as I could about IOSH Council. The first stage was to complete the candidate nomination application in July 2021; a short online interview followed responding to a pre-set question in August 2021. The final stage was to write a short candidate information summary and produce a two-minute video. These were included in the Candidate Statement Booklet. I was humbled and honoured to then be elected by the membership.

I lost count of the number of attempts I made at putting my video together – it was definitely in double digits! So, I ended up writing a script and reading it out – which is not the easiest. In some early attempts, you could see my eyes reading the lines, and as someone who has dyslexia, I struggle to read aloud and don’t like being filmed.

But trial and (lots of) error got me there. So, I would encourage everyone to read the previous candidate statements and watch the videos and then construct your own. 

What I’ve learned from being an IOSH Council member so far

As an elected member of IOSH Council, I have totalled about 70-80 hours (equivalent to about eight to nine days) to date, including learning more about what it is to be a Council member, how IOSH operates, attending numerous Zoom meetings, being part of the Council Effectiveness Steering Group, and co-authoring two papers for the May Council meeting.  

In doing so, I've developed my skills and knowledge in governance, writing policies, resolutions, and presenting my findings, which I can apply in my work.

Being a member of the IOSH Council has helped me to further develop my professional identity – who I am, what I do and why. As I reflect on the time on Council so far, I appreciate how my voluntary work aligns and enhances my values, motives, competencies and enables me to contribute to IOSH, and hopefully beyond.

I have also had the privilege of meeting and getting to know some fantastic people on the Council and in the IOSH Governance Team.  

I am looking forward to supporting the Council becoming more effective and helping all IOSH members to reach their potential. 

Read more about joining IOSH Council and start your application.

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Ali Barlow
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