Colleague Spotlight

Oliver Williams, Regional Health & Safety Manager

Oliver's background

Starting his career in the Construction industry, Oliver joined Ellis Whittam in 2013 as a Health & Safety Consultant and has since supported a diverse portfolio of clients, from large 700-employee leisure resorts to his local chemist.

Having moved into a management position in 2017, he now oversees a team of 15 consultants, offering an extra layer of technical expertise, whilst remaining very much hands-on as a consultant and mentor for his own clients. A Chartered Member of IOSH, Oli’s specialisms include behavioural and cultural change and building strategies to support internal competence.

Oliver's qualifications

Level 5 Diploma in Occupational Health and Safety Practice

OH&S Management Systems BS 18001 Lead Auditor

Fire Risk Assessment and Fire Safety Management

An interview with Oliver

Tell us more about your background

I think my passion for health and safety stemmed from my role as a site manager at a construction company. This wasn’t an area that I necessarily felt a passion for, so when the opportunity to train as a health and safety officer within the company arose, I leapt at the chance. I’ve always taken a particular interest in this area, so when I was accepted for the position, things just snowballed from there. I went on to fulfil several more health and safety-based roles before joining Ellis Whittam in 2013. I served as a consultant for three years before moving on to the Regional Health & Safety Manager role, and I continue to hold this position today, managing a team of 15 consultants.All-in-all, my experience in the field now spans 13 years.

What does your role at Ellis Whittam entail?

Lots of coffee, emails and phone calls – that’s the short version! More specifically, much of my time is spent engaging with my team of consultants and the wider business in delivering our service. I also look after my own small group of clients, ranging from a large, 700-employee leisure resort to my local chemist, and spanning the hospitality, manufacturing, and charity sectors. I feel there’s a nice balance to my role. As a chartered member of the Institute of Occupational Safety and Health, I can help my team with technical queries or anything unique or difficult. However, I’m also able to get out on-site, which is quite unusual for regional managers. I also spend a portion of my time developing new ways of working and planning the integration of new software into our strategic approach. My approach is simple and direct. I am strictly people-focused, and like to get straight to the point without any jargon or unnecessary complications. I also like to get close to the client’s culture and almost become a part of their team.

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

Because people and clients are at the centre of my approach, the most rewarding and challenging aspects of my role always revolve around them. For me, it’s always a joy to speak with a client and find out that they took heed of our advice and that it brought them positive results. On the flip side, it can be tough to deliver news to a client which you know is going to have a significant impact on them. However, the key is in how you approach that conversation; that’s something that comes with experience.

What advice would you give to an employer?

Make a plan and stick to it. I see so many safety plans which are very good on paper but haven’t been followed through or kept updated. One of the benefits of working with Ellis Whittam is that we help you to not only develop these plans but turn them into fully-functioning systems and procedures. I would also say that evidence is key, even if it sounds a bit obvious. Be it documents, conversations or visuals, they all have their benefits and place. Employers must be constantly wary of this. Finally, I would stress the importance of communication. So many employers either don’t do it, or it’s too one-way.

Why do you think health and safety sometimes gets a bad rap?

I think there’s a perception that health and safety professionals equate to the fun police. It’s often down to a misunderstanding of the legislation and an underestimation of risk. As a result, people assume that our job is to say no to everything and basically stop them from having fun. In reality, at Ellis Whittam at least, we’re not here to be overly restrictive; it’s about taking a sensible, proportionate approach to risk and helping employers execute their plans as safely as possible. I’ve even helped a client of mine with an “axe throwing” risk assessment; you can’t get much more fun than that!

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

The people. When you work with us, you get a dedicated consultant as well as access to our national team of consultants. As a result, your support is not limited by your consultant’s knowledge or experience; you will have access to a combination of hundreds of years’ experience in the health and safety field.

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