Behind the Job - David Lowes, Head of health, safety, quality, environmental and sustainability (HSQE) at Pod-Trak

  • 8th November 2022

What are the key skills required to do your job? 

At a very basic level, health and safety competence is paramount. However, a lot of my new role is also centred around team building and coaching, so communication and problem solving are equally as important. 

Being a people person is also a good attribute for my role as there is a lot of face-to-face, onsite training that takes place where I am aiming to help workers understand the importance of health and safety by providing context and relatability. 

My role also brings a lot of influence as I act as the conduit between employees and contractors, senior management and the board. 

What do you enjoy most about your job?

It has to be those lightbulb moments! There has been a lot of talk about ‘behavioural change’ in relation to HSQE within rail and construction but there is always education to be done. So, I am currently working on supporting a culture shift to show people exactly how their actions affect not only the business but themselves as well. When I see people ‘get it’, it makes my job so worthwhile. 

What does your job entail day-to-day?

You really don’t get a typical day within health and safety. My role spans every single department so one morning I could be advising on a new fatigue management process and another could be all about hand vibrations or our new environmental impact strategy. It changes hour to hour, nevermind day to day.

A huge element of my role recently has been working with climate change experts on how to reduce our carbon footprint and achieve a Net Zero target by 2050. Using historical data, I have to put in place incremental changes to hit that goal. It's a large task but absolutely worthwhile and vital for the health of our planet.

What route do you take to do your job? What qualifications are required? 

I gained my NEBOSH certification back in 2000 when I worked in aviation, then went on to do a Masters in Occupational Health and Safety Management. 

I also have the IOSH certificate and with that comes continual professional development. 

I had a stint as a train driver for a few years before going fleetside then moved into large construction style projects and now, I am at Pod-Trak.

What advice would you give to someone considering a career such as yours?

Go into it with a very open mind. Health and safety has a very distinct label and stigma attached to it but personally I don’t think it’s about saying no. I would much rather find one way of doing something safely, than 100 ways of not doing something. 

This is when problem solving comes into play. I like to work with people to find a suitable solution that enables the work to go ahead but in a safe, non-hazardous way. 

What projects have you most enjoyed working on or are you most proud of? 

We are rolling out a new approach to health and safety training to empower people to see the importance and create accountability for their actions. 

It’s all about changing perceptions and highlighting how we have been conditioned to think and behave. It’s a tough job to suddenly unlearn and relearn in a different way, but in my opinion it’s the only way to make people safer at work. Like all change, it has to come from within, and not be pushed onto people. 

Through full day interactive training sessions all employees and contractors receive face-to-face training to see the gravity of the situations we face daily and it helps them see how by acting in a safe and responsible manner, it can literally save their life and others.  

It’s a very rewarding part of my role to see this change in people. 

What do you see as the future of your industry over the next 5 years? 

Sadly, deaths in the industry have remained at 60 per year since 1990. It’s almost considered the norm now but my mission is to get that figure as close to zero as possible. 

Alongside safety, reaching a Net Zero target by 2050 (at the latest) is of utmost importance to me and I know several other companies and organisations want to realise this target too.

How has the sector changed since you started out? 

The industry is dominated by men and often they don't want to talk about their feelings - especially their mental health. However, more recently I have noticed a lot more people being more open and honest in what has historically felt like a very closed, stiff upper lipped industry. 

If people feel unsafe or uncomfortable carrying out a particular task, they are much more likely to say something now rather than just go ahead and do it. 

The pandemic may have had a lot to do with opening up discussions surrounding health in the workplace - one of the good things to come out of the past couple of years. 

You work with Coleman James. Why do you choose them as your recruitment partner of choice? 

I wasn’t looking to move anywhere when Rachel reached out to me, however, she made me see that there was a more suitable role out there for me and over a couple of informal coffee meetings, I was all in. 

I don’t have a bad word to say about the team at Coleman James, all of my encounters have been professional, informative and fun.