Staff Spotlight: Mike Coates
I’ve recently taken on the role of SHEQ Manager (Safety, Health, Environment and Quality), after 3 years as the company Health and Safety Manager.
This means I’m effectively responsible for the overall control of the safety, quality and environmental management systems and ensuring compliance across the company.
How long have you been working for Geotechnics?
It's flown by! Since 2015, so over 3 years now.
Can you describe your career journey to becoming a SHEQ Manager?
I started in the construction industry as a trainee contracts manager in about 1991, aged 17. I spent four or five years on site learning all the various different trades before I went into contracts management, looking after building refurbishment projects throughout the UK and overseas.
For a few years, I traveled the world with work. I spent a lot of time in Germany. It was the first overseas project I worked on. I then spent a bit of time in Moscow, Switzerland, Jamaica, and Africa. I’m sure there's loads of others that I can't remember but they're the main ones that spring to mind.
I first got involved in health and safety in 2007 in my previous role working for a steeplejack company. That was pretty much as a direct result of the company I was working for having to deal with a serious incident. They asked me to complete my CITB SMSTS training and NEBOSH General Certificate. I then took on the role of health and safety coordinator.
As my career progressed, I self-funded my NVQ Level 5 to get to the level I wanted to be at and then started to look for a dedicated role within health and safety.
How would you describe a typical day in your role as SHEQ Manager?
Up until recently, my role as health and safety manager typically involved site inspection or auditing of the existing management system, and ensuring compliance with the latest standards. It also involved investigation of accidents, incidents and near misses and then looking at ways to continue to improve the safety culture of the organisation, as well as providing health and safety advice to all levels within the organisation.
With my role as SHEQ Manager, going forward my first job will be to carry out a gap analysis on the existing system and look at how we can streamline and improve the system within the organisation, moving more toward an electronic version of the three systems that are then integrated with each other.
What do you think have been your biggest achievements so far in your time at Geotechnics?
Going forward in my new role there may be a different twist. We might incorporate environmental and quality issues into GO SAFE, or as an offshoot. That's the whole idea of integrating the systems. I'm looking at how we can bring the quality and environmental into inspections and what new topics could be addressed. Waste is one topic that comes to mind.
What is your favourite part of your job?
I like the interaction with different people. I still like getting out on site and there’s always a nice variety of site locations to visit. I don’t like being stuck in one location all the time. It’s something I'm very keen not to lose as I take on my new role.
There’s definitely a contrast between dealing with people on site and being in a senior management role, dealing with strategy and decision making for the whole organisation. Being able to communicate at all levels is key to improving the culture of the organisation.
What advice would you give to someone taking their first steps in the construction industry, and specifically SHEQ management?
There is now is a student route into IOSH (the International Organization for Safety and Health), but I would personally advocate that people need to have relevant construction industry experience before locking on to a career in health and safety. I think it gives you a good technical knowledge of how to control hazards before you start going down a dedicated health and safety route.
What do you think are the biggest changes and challenges within the industry going forward?
I think from a health and safety perspective the focus recently seems to have started to move more away from the safety and some of the challenges going forward are going to be related more towards well-being and health. It’s key that we focus our attention on increasing our understanding of mental health and wider occupational health issues.
One of the other biggest changes will be the introduction of technology on sites to handle the large amounts of data we produce and to assist us in moving away from paper documents. Over the next few months we will be trialing the use of tablet computers on site to give engineers access to all the company standard documents and forms.
What do you like to do outside of work?
I do quite a lot for IOSH in my current volunteer role as a committee member with the Manchester and North West district branch of IOSH. I also act as a chair and panel member on the PRI (Peer Review Interview) panel for charterships. Within the last couple of weeks, I've also taken on a role as a registered mentor for people wanting to achieve chartered status.
Outside of work my focus at the moment is around running and fitness. I've already entered an event in September next year to run up Snowdon.
What advice do you have for anyone looking to become chartered?
If we're looking at the interview panels and the types of people we get in I think that candidates tend to try and over-complicate the answers and I think that maybe sometimes they would benefit from going back to basic core health and safety knowledge.
What is a surprising fact that people might not know about you?
Well, I completed the London Marathon in 2002 with my parents, and raised money for a local hospital where my son was born.
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