Nick Wilson, Director of Health & Safety Services
With two Postgraduate degrees and nearly three decades of experience under his belt, Nick Wilson leads Ellis Whittam’s Health & Safety Services teams with aplomb.
Having kicked off his career in 1993, Nick has since plied his trade as a Health and Safety Executive Inspector, as a consultant with a national legal practice, and as head of SHEQ at a major UK food supplier. With this, he brings both practical and theoretical know-how in abundance, and has proven this time and again during his seven years as Ellis Whittam’s Director of Health & Safety Services.
MSc in Occupational Health and Safety
Postgraduate Diploma in Occupational Health and Safety
Degree in Business Studies
An interview with Nick
What ignited your career in health and safety?
My passion for health and safety began when I was asked to investigate a serious accident in the workplace. I found myself fascinated by the different causatives and how they played a part in the incident, and felt motivated to prevent something similar happening again, which is what sparked my interest in the subject. I followed this up with an MSc and a Postgraduate Diploma in Occupational Health and Safety, before breaking into the industry in 1993. Since then, I’ve worked as a health and safety inspector, as the head of a health and safety consultancy arm at a top-50 legal practice, and as the head of SHEQ at Cereal Partners (Nestlé). My experience has been quite varied and has allowed me to gain specialist knowledge in certain areas. Most notably, I have an affinity for areas such as safety management systems, auditing systems, behavioural and cultural change, serious accident investigation, engineering, manufacturing, logistics and retail. All of this expertise has carried forward into my current capacity as Director of Health & Safety Services, a position I’ve now held for seven years.
What does your role at Ellis Whittam entail?
Because of the intense and varied nature of my role, my typical day starts as early as possible. I’m at my desk no later than 7:30am, with an immediate priority to ensure scheduled visits are going ahead and consultants have their audits ready to go. After that it will be strategic project work interspersed with meetings with my SMT. In terms of the role itself, I’m responsible for a team of 35 consultants as well as a technical team and this is something that often takes precedence. I spend much of my time not only ensuring they are happy and supported but also that they are learning and developing. Another big part of my role is overseeing projects designed to enhance the services we provide our clients. In terms of my approach, I don’t overcomplicate things – I am a strong advocate of the ‘know, like, trust’ approach when building a relationship. I also like meetings to emerge with clear actions assigned to individuals so that progress can be made, and I feel that’s why my team and I are always moving in the right direction.
Which aspect of the role do you enjoy the most?
In broad terms, leading my team and running a successful department is what gives me the most fulfilment. I particularly enjoy planting the seed of an idea to one of my consultants and seeing how they embrace it and turn it into something tangible and useful. In doing this, not only am I helping my consultants to grow as professionals and individuals, but I am also bolstering the service we provide to clients at Ellis Whittam, which is what it’s all about. That said, the logistical obstacles presented when servicing clients in remote areas is always a challenge, and I think this is the greatest difficulty that comes with the role. However, we have devised some inventive ways of doing this over the years.
Why do you think health and safety often gets a bad rap?
Because, unfortunately, people’s perception is that it’s putting obstacles in the way and interfering with business objectives. Those who hold that belief are either not interpreting the law properly or are being influenced by others who don’t understand their legal duties and are applying disproportionate measures to control trivial risks.
Can you share any achievements or success stories?
I was appointed to IOSH council and served a six-year term. But more generally, I’m proud of the experience and expertise I’ve accumulated over the years. With stints as a regulator, a consultant, and a director of national health and safety practice, I’ve stood on both sides of the fence, and I believe this gives me a unique perspective and professional advantage today. In terms of more specific success stories, we recently developed a bespoke audit package for a large multi-site client that they are delighted with, which was really satisfying to see.
What advice would you give to employers?
Often, employers develop a system with the intention of protecting employees (perhaps as a box-ticking exercise), but fail to implement it. If you’re going to take the time and effort to build a system, you’d be doing yourself a favour by sticking to it! Aside from that I’d implore organisations to focus on the real, core risks, and to not be distracted by fanciful ones that are unlikely to materialise.
What’s one thing you’ve learned since working in the field?
That it’s okay not to know everything, so don’t speculate if presented with something you don’t fully understand. Ask questions and your credibility will be preserved.
Meet some of our team
“I’ve taken Ellis Whittam into every organisation that I’ve worked with. I’ve introduced them to many teams and many colleagues and referred them with absolute pleasure because I genuinely trust in the service that we get.”
Debbie Jamieson, People Director
“We get a great deal of comfort and satisfaction knowing that we have support as and when we need it, in a decisive and responsive way.”
Richard Berry, Group HR Director
Bluestone National Park Resort
“What we recognised in Ellis Whittam is the background that they have. They are able to supply knowledge and experience in a number of disciplines, which enables us to develop our business in a way that’s safe, to do it on time and with a quality to it.”
Debbie Rainbow, Director of Human Resources and Health & Safety
“As the company started to get larger, we knew we had to protect our employees and our contractors both onsite and in the offices. Ellis Whittam is exactly what we needed to move the company forward.”
Joanne Beaver, Operations Director
“We have found Ellis Whittam to be responsive and aligned with our business in terms of our processes and expectations. Their pragmatic approach has proven to be a great fit – nobody wants to be fighting their adviser on basic employment decisions.”
Jonathan Green, COO
“Ellis Whittam supports our 280 staff members with Employment Law and Health & Safety and has provided quality management training too.”
Lisa Best, Head of Service Delivery
What do you need help with?
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