Colleague Spotlight

Charles Spencer, Principal Health & Safety Consultant

Charles Spencer

Charles' background

Starting his career in both the public and private sectors of environmental health, Charles joined Ellis Whittam in 2012 as a Health & Safety Consultant and has since supported a diverse portfolio of clients, from large catering suppliers to school trusts and large manufacturing operations.

Since joining the Health & Safety Team, Charles has progressed to the role of Principal Health & Safety Consultant. A Chartered Member of IOSH and the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health (CIEH), Charles’ specialisms include food safety, enforcement liaison and training.

In 2019, Charles began a volunteer role as the CIEH representative for the BSI committee for Occupational Health and Safety Management Systems, which he fulfils alongside his current role.

Charles' qualifications

BSc Degree in Environmental Health

Level 3 Award in Preparing to Teach in the Lifelong Learning Sector

Level 3 Award in Training Skills and Practice

FPA Certified Fire Risk Assessor

An interview with Charles

Tell us about your career prior to joining Ellis Whittam?

Funnily enough, my career path actually stemmed from a last-minute change of heart during my time at university. I was due to complete my degree in Geography, but I was advised by my Environmental Science lecturer to pivot to Environmental Health, as it would lead to more opportunities. Further down the line, I undertook a work experience placement with ASDA’s trading law team, and discovered that I particularly enjoyed working in food health and safety. I now consider this area to be something of a speciality. I have since worked with some of the largest retailers and hospitality companies in the UK, including Waitrose, Pret a Manger and Whitbread. Prior to joining Ellis Whittam, I was also a safety adviser for NSF International in central London. All in all, I have now spent 13 years in the field. Seven of those years have been spent with Ellis Whittam, spanning three different health and safety-based roles.

What does your role at Ellis Whittam entail?

Primarily, my role involves visiting clients and advising some of our largest key accounts, completing IOSH Managing Safely training and food safety training, as well as more generally supporting the wider team. When I have a spare five minutes in between all of this, I make sure all our risk assessment templates and other COVID-19 resources are updated in line with fast-moving government guidance, which as you can imagine takes some time! 

Which aspect of the role do you enjoy the most, and which do you find most challenging?

I enjoy my role for so many reasons, but I think that overall, the greatest pleasure is seeing the impact you have on the safety of others. Without wanting to state the obvious, this is ultimately what health and safety boils down to, and it’s important to not lose sight of that. However, it’s certainly not without its challenges, and I would say that one of the biggest ones is encouraging clients to act quickly before things get out of hand and escalate. This is one of the most common scenarios I encounter, and it can be tricky to get your message across sometimes. The other challenge, of course, is adapting your approach to suit the client’s style of doing things – what works for some doesn’t always work for others and you find that out pretty quickly when you work with as many diverse clients as we do.

What advice would you give to employers?

Failing to complete risk assessments is an increasingly common and potentially fatal pitfall. Making a list of control measures does not count as a risk assessment! Risk assessments are not a piece of paper and should not live on a shelf. You need to look at the hazard and make sure that the controls are in place and that they work. I would hope that, after a pandemic, the need for health and safety will be more clear to employers.

What are some of your proudest achievements?

I am a chartered member of two major health and safety bodies: the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health (CIEH) and the Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH). I have also completed Fire Risk Assessment and Fire Safety Management courses. I would say my most recent achievement was taking the lead in assembling the COVID-19 health and safety documentation for our Coronavirus Advice Hub, which has since been downloaded by thousands of clients with some brilliant feedback.

How would you describe Ellis Whittam’s support, and what makes it unique?

Ultimately, I believe that our approach can save an organisation a great deal of money. Not only is our service built on expertise and diligence, but because we don’t charge hourly fees, our clients can expect a greater level of support without expenses spiralling. What’s more, as well as access to a named consultant, our set-up and collaborative approach means the client benefits from multiple layers of experience and expertise, so there’s rarely ever a situation we haven’t seen before and or the technical ability within our ranks to solve the problem.

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