In November 2000 Paul was working as a Process Operator and Engineer at the Recycled Fibre Plant in Kemsley, Kent. He was involved in a safety incident which resulted in his left arm being severed above the elbow and during a 16 hour operation replanted.
As part of our meet the expert series Paul Mahoney agreed to meet and answer some questions about his experience in the field of Health and Safety
Where do you fit into the Hastam team?
I bring the reality of when it goes wrong to the front of people’s attention, and whether they can afford the fall out of their actions, if they choose to work unsafe in the workplace and that of their families too.
Being from the shop floor I can bring that operator mentality to an issue and how to fix it because sharing my experiences with delegates they open up about stories that would normally be shared with supervisors and managers. I look for the hidden tools and other tell-tale signs that would be overlooked by others.
Who has been your biggest influencer?
In life I wouldn’t say there was one big influencer because you meet and see loads of people, who all leave you with an idea, a word, a dream or something to fight for or hold on to.
We are though moving into an era where actually it will be not the physical influencer, but artificial experiences that will have the biggest impacts on future generations. Gaming, Social Media, Podcasts and Virtual Media will overtake them all.
What is the most memorable piece of work you have ever been involved in?
It sounds like I’m sitting on the fence, but how can you choose between all great and not so great pieces of work that have happened over the 6 years I have been telling my tale. It is not just remembering the great as yes you know you nailed it and you feel on top of the world. The not so great should be relished to as it is these experiences that make you learn and remember as it helps you reflect and learn.
In that case it would have to be my very first talk and being challenged about what I had done and that of work mates. It was the first time that someone had actually questioned what we had done that day and previous working practice before the accident.
The best has to be standing on top of a silo overlooking Heathrow airport and watching the Airbus 380s take-off. You can’t beat working and taking in your hobby at the same time!
Journeys give you memorable times when going to work and the one that sticks in the memory is following a Foster’s beer lorry on the A66 to Workington in a blizzard at night. The only time I was pleased to be stuck behind a slow-moving lorry.
What is the one piece of advice that has stuck with you through your career?
It’s from my Dad who always said no matter what you do in life, just be enthusiastic! Enthusiasm is contagious it lets you carry the day, as it allows you to dig deep and win people over against the odds.
Summarise what you have learnt during your time in Health and Safety.
There is no single best practice to achieving zero harm, beyond zero etc. and not just one person can do it. Teamwork is the key to getting everyone or the majority on board to working safe and going home safe. Everybody has their part to play, however small or large. Read the story of when President Nixon met a Janitor at NASA.
Is there anything you have changed your mind on over on the years?
Yes, Health and Safety can be fun and exciting as a subject! You just need to add your personality and passion to the subject. I love football and by sharing my passion for the game and linking it to work and safety, delegates remember the safety message as it is in their language.
Very few chooses Health and Safety as a career, most get into it by accident (no pun intended) so why not mix passions with your role to generate the better buy in.
Anything else you would like to add?
I have just written a book about my experiences of my accident and what I have learnt since. From day one I have always wanted people to learn from my accident, whether training as a first aider, donating blood or a pound to the air ambulance. Telling my tale to delegates has taken it to another stage around the world and now putting the story in print takes it to another stage.
The book Man v Machine – Journey of Complacency is available at: