People often think that health and safety is just a regulation or piece of paper that needs to be satisfied in order to carry on with their jobs. It is often portrayed as the killjoy, with a negative perception of hindering fun, or putting sanctions in place to stop something from happening, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. In fact, being a health and safety professional can mean that you are involved in making something previously impossible possible by finding different ways of doing it.

In an industry like tourism, where visitor numbers are key, we’re faced with the tough combination of keeping everyone safe, and making sure the spectacle they came to see is as exciting as possible. Often, other than the activities on show, the major risk is the public themselves, with children whizzing around, excited about a day out in a fun-filled environment. It takes a certain type of person and training to make sure a tourist attraction is not hampered by too many rules and regulations, yet everyone has their safety guaranteed.

My work as Safety Coordinator at the Royal Armouries is all about finding the right balance between safety and ‘the show.’ As the UK’s national museum of arms and armour, with over 75,000 items on show, we are constantly running events that need me to work out the best way of allowing them to happen, but ensuring everyone is kept safe.

To the visitor, a museum may not seem to be the kind of place that would have a lot of complicated risks, but we have all kinds of weird and wonderful things going on. We have everything from live jousting events and Wild West shootouts, through to sword fights and assault courses, so you can imagine the work it takes to allow these to happen. As well as the special events, we have plant rooms, high-voltage switch gear, a conservation department and all the chemicals that go with that and X-Ray machines, plus some of our artefacts have asbestos in them. So, it’s fair to say there are risks at every turn!

If the team wants to run a high-risk activity at one of our venues, they can’t have me saying ‘you can’t do that’. It’s my role to find a way to make it happen while managing it safely. I quickly realised that I needed skills and qualifications that would help me deal with everything going on within my role, so I took the NEBOSH National General Certificate in Occupational Health and Safety. The knowledge I gained was invaluable, so I decided to continue my studies and completed the NEBOSH National Diploma in Occupational Safety and Health.

The approach I have taken and the knowledge I have gained from the NEBOSH qualifications

has now been passed on throughout the organisation, so much so that it is an important part of what everyone does on a daily basis. In fact, the managers I work with are more willing than ever to get involved with the health and safety assessments and audits I undertake, looking to learn from me and understand where things can be improved.


One thing I have installed within the organisation that I am really proud of is the understanding that each individual is in charge of health and safety, not just me. Whilst it is my job to make sure everything runs smoothly, having buy in from each employee makes my job easier, and actually improves the health and safety of the organisation as a whole. As a result, awareness has improved an awful lot, with people understanding that we can take risks, but we have to know how to control them. I think this is a major culture shift, and one that sets the organisation in good stead moving forward.

Having the NEBOSH Diploma has also given me a lot more confidence in my ability. I don’t have any qualms whatsoever in going up to the Master of the Armouries and saying that I think we should be doing a certain activity in a different way. I would never want to cancel a show, but if I can see a safer way of doing something, I will speak up, and trust my instinct and qualifications.

My training allows The Armoury to undertake high-risk activities, which brings tourists and visitors through the doors. We have another shootout on horseback coming up, which is about as exciting an experience as you can plan. We have to notify the police and do a lot of practicing to make sure it all goes right on the night, but we can’t have members of the public, or people outside hearing shots and calling 999. A few years ago, we wouldn’t have dreamed of undertaking a show like this, but as you learn, your confidence grows, and you work out that if all of the rules and regulations are followed, a plan of action can be put in place. And now, here we are hosting gunfights on horseback in front of the public.

My job is never boring, and I feel the difference I am making when I see our visitors going about their everyday lives, not even thinking about their safety. I am thinking about it for them, and the fact that they are unaware of how much work goes in to keeping them safe means I am doing my job right. 39

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