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Working lives

Kevin Fear, 42, is responsible for providing health and safety assistance to consultant Posford Duvivier. He has additional responsibility for the firm's management systems.

Route to job

I joined Posford Pavry and Partners, straight from school in 1976 and while there gained an ONC in building construction. I went on to graduate in civil engineering at Aston University and then trained with West Midlands County Council, spending two years on site. I then took a number of site based posts, including two years with a contractor. During this time I effectively became the site safety officer, often because I was the only one on site to show any interest in the subject. I re-joined what had become Posford Duvivier in 1989. I was appointed health and safety and quality assurance manager in 1995 and made an associate in 1998. I am a member of the Institution of Occupational Safety & Health and a member of the Institution of Civil Engineers, serving as a member of the Health & Safety Board since 1997. I have been nominated for elections to the ICE Council in 2001.


When I took on the role of 'competent person', I knew what to expect. Health and safety (like quality assurance) is seen by many as placing barriers in the way of both management and staff rather than presenting opportunities. The challenge for me has been to instil confidence in my colleagues by providing advice that is practical and proportionate. I hope I am now seen more as help than hindrance.

The reality

No two days are alike and I often find I need to react to varied situations brought to my attention.

A basic understanding of criminal and civil law is essential, as is the ability to read and interpret legislation. I always need to be clear about why I am being asked a particular question.

I have a good information network. Regulations, accident trends and health and safety best practice change and the advice I give must be based on up to date information.

I spend too much of my time answering competence questionnaires which only serve as openings to real negotiations with clients. Providing help with proposals can be a good opportunity to get engineers thinking about eliminating hazards inherent in their designs which, I think, is the key to future reduction of the industry's accident and ill health statistics. I get great satisfaction from listening to troubled engineers and enabling them to think about practical solutions to their own problems, which, in the long run, will enhance the reputation of Posford Duvivier, the industry and my profession.


If you want popularity, do not choose a career in health and safety. You need to be thick skinned and assertive, but you must also have empathy with your fellow human beings; you have to care. You must develop confidence in yourself that you will do the right thing rather than take an easier way out. Finally, you need to know the difference between hazard and risk.

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