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Playing it safe

Working lives - A dream comes true for Peter Rickell as he settles into his new role as president of APS. He spoke to Jon Young.

Last year structural engineer Peter Rickell hit a milestone in his career when he began a two year term as president of the Association for Project Safety (APS), a role he had secretly coveted for 10 years.

'I joined APS when it was formed in 1995 following the introduction of the Construction (Design & Management) regulations. The CDM regs brought with them a new job role: the planning supervisor, ' Rickell explains.

'From its formation until last year, APS was the Association of Planning Supervisors, but with the new version of the CDMs replacing the planning supervisor role with CDM co-ordinator, we decided the name had to change. So we've renamed ourselves the Association for Project Safety.' Rickell believes that with the imminent arrival of the revised regulations 'this is probably the most important time not only for APS but also the construction industry. It is a great opportunity to improve the standards of health and safety by improving the quality of the people responsible for it.

'Improvements in heath and safety can bring massive improvements in a company's profit, ' he says. But at present many people in the role are not qualified to manage health and safety properly, he adds.

Rickell says he has been keenly interested in engineering for as long as he can remember.

As a toddler, if his parents gave him a new toy for his birthday or Christmas he would pull it apart 'to see how it all worked' ? although he was often unable to put it together again. Playing to his passions ? and no doubt hoping the young Rickell would learn to repair the items he dismantled ? at age 11 his parents enrolled him in a secondary school that specialised in engineering.

He went from school straight into employment with BICC as a structural engineer for a tall buildings and bridges in 1964, and pursued a Higher National Certificate (HNC) at Westminster College of Technology on day release.

Five years on Rickell's aspirations had outstripped the opportunities BICC offered and he left to join civil engineering consultant Maurice Baguley & Partners. There he completed his HNC in civil engineering and progressed through the ranks of project management to become a partner. He stayed with the firm for 18 years.

It was the release of the first CDM regulations in 1994 that initiated Rickell's migration from structural engineering to the complex maze of health and safety. 'When the CDM regs first came out I realised that Maurice Baguley wasn't doing enough to improve health and safety. I took the National Examination Board in Occupational Safety & Health (NEBOSH) construction certificate along with another partner at the company and really found health and safety interesting.' Rickell established a new health and safety division within Maurice Baguley, completed the NEBOSH diploma, and became a member of the Institution of Occupational Safety & Health.

He became the first planning supervisor at the firm. And two years after the APS was formed, Rickell became its fi rst regional chairman for the south east in 1997.

Rickell describes himself as someone who always wants to move up and do better both for himself and others. 'These are exciting, changing times.

You have to be able and willing to adapt to do the best for yourself, your company, your project and the industry.' As well as heading up APS, Rickell has run his own health and safety consultancy in Kent since 2004, advising major clients across construction and other industries on how they can improve safety in there work practices.

Now aged 57, Rickell says his 'age and waistline have put a halt to most physical activity', but he still subjects himself to 'depressing hours watching Charlton Athletic' losing on the football field. And he is kept pretty busy by his wife, two children and now two grandchildren.

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