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Working lives

Your career : Careers clinic

Mike Stott, 44, is safety and environment manager with the O'Rourke Group.

Route to the job

I completed a degree in civil engineering at Birmingham University in 1977 and joined Costain as a junior engineer. My first job was building hangars on an airfield in East Anglia. I then moved to RAF Wattisham in Suffolk, where the firm was employed to resurface runways. I stayed with Costain for 10 years, during which time I spent a design year with Maddocks & Lusher in Ipswich. I also worked on several overseas projects. These included building a jetty for a cement works in Greece, constructing a huge cement works and military training camp in Oman, and working on a water distribution network in Nigeria.

I moved from Costain to Balfour Beatty, joining the firm as a subagent and working on a number of diverse projects - from more hangars in East Anglia, to Woolwich prison. I also spent 10 years with Balfour Beatty, moving across gradually from straight forward civil engineering to safety related work.

By the time I left to join O'Rourke, five years ago, my job was split about fifty-fifty between engineering and safety.

Expectations

I applied for my current job after seeing it advertised in NCE. My expectations were to be able to adapt the procedures and good management systems I had helped devise at Balfour Beatty to suit the requirements of O'Rourke. I wanted to be able match the safety statistics we had achieved on the Second Severn Crossing approach roads contract, where we had just one reported accident in a year - a period equivalent to 750,000 man hours.

The reality

I would say I am achieving what the company wanted me to do. I have helped to create a safe environment and to reduce the number of accidents by a factor of two and a half.

My actual job description covers many things, from site inspection to policy and procedure, accident investigation to compiling newsletters. I am probably out of the office 50% of the time, overseeing works on site and supervising a team of 10 safety advisors who are based throughout the country.

It is extremely satisfying to get to the end of the month knowing that our safety record remains strong - and that this has been achieved through good management rather than cost.

Advice

If you have quality construction related experience and a genuine ability to communicate, then a career in safety management is a real option. Working in this area is very satisfying as it combines civil engineering with the human side of things - you are actively prolonging the skills and working llives of colleagues.

As an introduction, you could try the Construction Industry Training Board five day course, which provides a good grounding in safety issues. To become a safety officer, you will also need to complete the National Examination Board in Occupational Safety & Health general certificate.

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