Apr 10 2018

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Last term the Health and Safety policy was revised setting a clear strategic direction for health and safety across the campus. 
We caught up with Matt Purcell, Director of Health and Safety, to understand what has changed within the policy and what colleagues can take away from it.

1. Could you tell us a bit more about yourself and your role as Director of Health and Safety?

I have been working for the College for 18 years, and in 2013 I was appointed Director of Health and Safety. This month is my fifth anniversary as Director and during this time my team and I have had the opportunity to work with a diverse range of people to improve our institutions health and safety arrangements and further develop our health and safety culture. Much of our work has focused on our approach to risk management. We have taken the sensible view that those who create risks should manage them responsibly and while people have the right to protection, they also have to take responsibility for themselves as well as others. This is, however, work in progress and it is vital that we continue to work with the College community to improve the way we do things, making sure we never lose sight of our primary aim of protecting people’s health and ensuring their safety.

2. We know that the Health and Safety policy has recently been revised. Could you explain what has been changed in the policy?

I’ll start with the text book answer to this question. The policy adopts a new vision and policy statement which sets a clear strategic direction for health and safety. We have also ensured it correctly reflects our existing organisational structure in line with recent changes and clarified roles and responsibilities within the management structure so that there is a clear cascade down the line management chain. The document also now establishes itself as the overarching “head” policy, with the detail of the management arrangements for dealing with specific health, safety and welfare issues now referenced in the policy.

In short, we have reflected on where we are now as an organisation and created this revised policy to establish an idea of where we want to be.

3. What can colleagues across the College take from the new revised Health and Safety policy?

The policy does not result in any immediate changes to the way we do things. I think that colleagues should, instead, be encouraged by the opportunities the new vision provides. This vision, I believe, forms the foundations for a range of future development work to improve the way we do things and further develop the right organisational culture. The responsibility for taking this forward will now fall primarily to my team supported by the newly created Health and Safety Management Committee. However, it is important to remember that we all have an active role to play and the success of this work is dependent on the involvement and support of all within the College.   

4. Are you currently working on any exciting projects?

This is the Health and Safety Office, every project for us is exciting!

5. What’s your favourite term at Royal Holloway and why? 

I think that would have to be the autumn term as this is when we have the most direct contact with our students, particularly the new intake of undergraduates. Moving away from home and living and studying independently is a big step for these young people, so being part of a process which educates and reassures students about their safety is very rewarding.

6. During your time at Royal Holloway what is the most unusual Health and Safety assessment you’ve worked on?

I do recall one occurrence many years ago which still makes me smile today. During a clear out of one of our chemical stores, a colleague discovered a small glass bottle sitting within a bucket of sand. On the bucket was a label with the words ‘do not touch – this will explode’. Upon investigation, thankfully, this warning turned out to be overly cautious, but the choice of words did have us wondering how the substance had got there in the first place.

7. What do you enjoy doing outside of your work life?

For me, life outside of work is about family, spending time with my wife and children.  When I need a break from this, I come into work.

8. You may have seen our latest recruitment campaign, ‘Find your why’. We are interested to find out what Royal Holloway has helped you to discover about yourself…

In my time here, I have discovered the importance of the support of colleagues, both from my team and others. As Steve Jobs once said ‘great things in business are never done by one person. They’re done by a team of people’.