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A day in the life of...Jon Crabb, Health and Safety Adviser

Jon Crabb

'Delivering workshops and training sessions is probably one of my favourite parts of my role. I really enjoy meeting new people from all around the University and passing on my knowledge.'

As a Health and Safety Adviser, Jon Crabb is part of a team responsible for providing health and safety advice, support and training, as well as investigating incidents and making sure that our food is safe to eat. With 21,000 people at the University, Jon’s job is a busy and varied one…

How long have you been working at the University?

I've been here for six years, which has gone in flash. My role has developed over the years, with me taking the lead in organising our health and safety training programme, as well as acting as lead adviser to a number of Schools and Directorates. We aim to be proactive, and we find that now people know that we're here to help, they're happy to phone us up just to check things or to let us know if there's a problem.

What did you do before joining the University?

Before I joined the University I worked as an Environmental Health Inspector at Reading Borough Council and at West Berkshire Council. Before that I studied Environmental Sciences at Salford University.

What are your main responsibilities?

I organise the health and safety training programme, which involves identifying training needs and making sure we run the right courses. I also do quite a lot of the training delivery myself, but others in the team do their bit as well. We're currently reviewing the training programmes we offer as we're hoping to add some more on line training packages wherever possible, so this takes up time to develop new training materials.

This year, because of my environmental health background, I've had to switch roles a bit and take on food safety, while a colleague is on maternity leave. I'm therefore the main point of contact for food safety on campus. This means providing advice to, and auditing, all the food outlets run by the Facilities Management Directorate, as well as the Students' Union, to check that they can demonstrate that they are meeting national standards of hygiene and safety. I also liaise with the Local Authority when they carry out food safety inspections. The introduction of the Central Kitchen (where food for all University catering outlets is produced) requires that quality control of catering is a top priority, and it has actually made our jobs/lives that bit easier, which is nice! With their new stock control computer system it is possible to track the path of raw ingredients from when they enter the goods yard to when they are purchased as a sandwich or hot meal in Dol.Che Vita or Eat at the Square, for example.

All of this is on top of health and safety auditing of departments, which takes quite a lot of time, responding to requests for information, doing some accident investigations, and helping to develop new H&S initiatives.

Do you have involvement with events around the University?

As a team we are responsible for monitoring Event Notifications in conjunction with the Events Team. A notification should be submitted for every University event, whether it is being organised by staff or students, so we can check that, among other things, the proposed event isn't going to clash with anything already organised for that day. We then make sure that any safety aspects will be managed properly.  One of the most far-fetched requests I have seen was for a bungee jump from one of the buildings on the Whiteknights campus! I'm afraid that one was not approved, for various reasons.

Can you describe a typical day in the life of a Health and Safety Adviser?

08.00 Help to get children to school or preschool!

08.30 I'm the Building Manager for the JJ Thompson building, where our offices are based, so I might start my day responding to any building related issues, contacting FMD about maintenance, or on a Friday, testing the fire alarms. 

09.00 Meeting of the working group for health and well-being, along with Human Resources, the Centre for Staff Training and Development and other colleagues. We have regular meetings and our current focus is helping managers to identifying stress issues at work and organising the ‘Supporting You' event for staff on 19 June.

11.00 As part of my regular inspection schedule, I might pay a visit to Eat at the Square to check that all hygiene and safety standards are being met.

12.15 If I'm lucky, I take time out to go for a run or play football over lunchtime!

13.30 I might have a meeting with an event organiser to talk through their plans and give advice on minimising the potential risks, in terms of both food safety and health and safety.

14:30 Attend a health and safety committee for one of the schools/departments that I look after.

15.30 I might be running a training session for staff. We run a huge variety of training sessions throughout the year, from radiation and laser safety, to fire awareness and use of extinguishers, manual handling, Display Screen Equipment use and food handling.

On other days, it might not be quite as hectic, but then I would work on contributing to policy development and revisions to our Safety Guides.

Can you tell us a bit about the day to day issues that you have to deal with In Health and Safety Services?

The most common accidents that happen around the University are slips and falls, so I might need to look at an accident scene, take photos, maybe measure the slip resistance of the flooring etc.  We then get all sorts of queries, varying from ‘how many first aiders does the department need', to ‘can I film on campus using World War Two guns'.  

There must be quite a few high risk areas here, considering the broad range of teaching and research disciplines?

Yes there are! I am the main adviser for the University farm, which is situated in Shinfield, so I visit every six weeks to work with the managers and help to ensure things are running smoothly. There is a lot of large equipment there, and working with animals always carries additional risk, varying from being trodden on by a cow, to animal allergens.

The University also has several engineering and woodworking shops, equipped with machines such as lathes and band saws. This type of equipment can be lethal if it isn't up to standard, so I've carried out various equipment inspections and provided advice on compliance to the owning departments. I've also brought in specialist trainers, so that the technical staff who operate these machines have had up-to-date training.

What do you like about working here?

The University is a very friendly environment and in my experience people are generally very approachable, even if I'm talking to them about health and safety issues! I also like the variety that working at the University brings. We are quite a small busy team but my colleagues are supportive of each other.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

Delivering workshops and training sessions is probably one of my favourite parts of my role. I really enjoy meeting new people from all around the University and passing on my knowledge. I also particularly enjoy my job as I'm naturally very inquisitive so I enjoy getting to the bottom of issues and resolving problems.

Are there any aspects of your role that you find particularly challenging?

I think that one of the biggest challenges we face as a team is making people aware that everyone is responsible for their own safety. We can do our best to make things as easy as possible but ultimately we can't be responsible for 21,000 people! At the moment we're creating online training modules for staff, which we hope that staff will find useful and accessible and help to raise further awareness of health and safety.

An aspect that I like least is having to advise people that that their event can't be run exactly as they had hoped, if they are planning to do something that we would class as high risk. Although it's disappointing for them, we do all we can to make an event happen by finding a different way of doing things, rather than just saying ‘no'. 

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