Helen Conlin has over twenty four years’ experience in industry and consultancy with extensive experience in supporting high technology, high and medium hazard operations. Covering technical, human and organisational factors. She specialises in optimising the combined performance of people, technology and processes to deliver improved Safety, Health, Environment and Quality performance within critical activities and systems.
As part of our meet the Expert series she agreed to answer some questions on her time in the field of Health and Safety.
Where do you fit into the Hastam team?
I have been an Associate Consultant with Hastam since August this year (2018). Hastam’s evidence based approach, innovation and technical excellence made them a company that I was interested in learning more about and working with.
Who has been your biggest influencer?
Many people I have worked with over the past > 20 years have influenced me and I could not single anyone out as it has been an evolving and cumulative effect. I find that it is how the experience and knowledge gained from working with other people is processed, contextualised and assimilated that determines the level of future benefit. It is good and healthy to have your views confounded and challenged as it forces you to rethink your assumptions and potential biases.
What is the most memorable piece of work you have ever been involved in?
Again, I find it difficult to pick one as there have been multiple fascinating projects across a wide range of subject areas and I have worked with many wonderful and diverse people. The project that led to many more opportunities for interesting work was the research undertaken for UKHSE in 2000 that produced CRR2001/348 ‘Assessing the safety of staffing arrangements for process operations in the chemical and allied industries’. It retains a good level of recognition across high hazard sectors and always identifies areas for practical and important improvement when applied.
What is the one piece of advice that has stuck with you through your career?
Quick answer: ‘Say what you see’ which was the saying of two different QA Supervisors at the first two companies I worked for: 3M and Pilkington.
Slow answer: The importance of staying curious and continuing to learn that was clearly demonstrated and emphasised by colleagues whilst working at the strongly innovative companies 3M and Pilkington and subsequently encouraged and reinforced by many more.
Is there anything you have change your mind on over on the years?
I have refined my position on many matters as knowledge, experience and understanding have continued to accumulate and evolve but the basic philosophy of being curious, honest, thorough and acting with integrity has remained.
Summarise what you have learnt during your time in Health and Safety.
That health and safety is one facet of organisational /system performance and it is essential to understand how the whole works before changing any part of it. It has been rare for me to be working solely within health and safety at any point.
Anything else you would like to add?
Keep an open mind and keep learning and getting better. All people working in and with an organisation contribute to that organisation’s performance as well as the technology and processes used. Understanding these system dynamics for a particular organisation is critical to being able to enable them to improve. Also, ensure that it is not only the people with position and power that have their views and opinions heard, respected and utilised – sometimes as a consultant that is one of the most useful services you can provide.