Meet the Member – Neil Grace
Current job title and organisation for which you work?
Senior Occupational Hygienist, Spirit Energy Exploration & Production.
What ‘A’ levels and first degree did you take?
None! Left school at 16 with a handful of “O” Levels.
What was the first job you got when you finished your full-time education?
Started & completed a 4 Year Apprenticeship as a Vehicle Coach Builder for Merseyside Passenger Transport in Liverpool.
When and why did you become interested in occupational hygiene?
Throughout the nineties, whilst developing my career path, I gained a greater insight into the world of Health & Safety and ever since have always been involved as a rep, manager or adviser within the scope of H&S. But when working for GSK (Glaxo Wellcome as it was then), I had the chance to become a technician as part of the onsite hygiene team, and the rest as they say is history….
What further qualifications do you hold?
MSc in Occupational Hygiene (Distinction – University of Manchester), Diploma of Operational Competence in Occupational Hygiene, NEBOSH Diploma (CMIOSH).
How long have you been a member of BOHS (or any of its predecessors)?
Since 2000 as an Affiliate within the GSK group, then as a Licentiate in 2003, Member in 2010, Chartered Fellow in 2016.
How has BOHS or BOHS membership (including its predecessors) helped you in your career?
I was very lucky, when I started in hygiene within GSK; there were 3 hygienists on site, during that time I was a sponge, not just learning from their knowledge and experience, but also from their peers and contacts in the profession. From then, I realised that “Networking” within BOHS was and is, essential to support your ever-increasing knowledge & competence base within the profession. When I joined the Oil & Gas fraternity I started attending the Energy Institute hygiene meetings, this was probably a huge turning point in my BOHS career as the guys and girls I met back in 2008 are still great friends and colleagues who have supported me throughout my career! So the answer is yes, it has helped!
How did you get your current job?
I saw the vacancy advertised in my local paper!! I’m talking South Cumbria & Furness area, so I thought I’d take a closer look, I applied and got a first interview. The role seemed really interesting, with onshore terminals and offshore rigs, I was called for a second interview, and was offered the job. I am just about to move jobs in July…more about that at a later date.
Describe a typical day in your job.
Back to the old cliché, there isn’t one. Even when your day is planned with: meetings, training, briefings, monitoring, report writing (Boo!) health risk assessment support, investigations, audits or writing policy & procedures, it can change by the drop of a hat. That’s what makes it so interesting, you never know who you might be meeting or talking to from one day to the next.
What has been the most satisfying accomplishment of your career to date?
Probably a simple one, we had been struggling with contractors and vendors coming to site with “poor” COSHH assessments, normally a glorified safety data sheet! I’m sure we all have this problem…well a few years ago we had an incident and we realised we needed a new philosophy for shutdowns and turnarounds in terms of managing hazardous substances. So I introduced “what good COSHH looks like”, offering a new simple format in the shape of an editable proforma free of charge to all contracting companies. This allowed their competent assessors to be guided and supported to keep things simple but not simplistic (thanks Mike Slater), ensuring their updated assessments are suitable and sufficient. It worked and our assessments have improved significantly, hence improving the level of awareness and control.
What has been the worst experience of your career to date?
Being asked to get involved in a plasma cutting booth project when the booth was already built and ready for commissioning. On my first visit (of many) I walked in and felt like crying…they had a downdraught system when they needed a captor system, the outside of the booth had smooth sides, whilst the insides had nice little shelves for all your ornaments…I had been invited when they had realised there was a problem with the ventilation design, so the old story, why wasn’t I invited at the design stage?
What is your ‘pet subject’ in occupational hygiene?
That’s a tough one and has changed over the years… I’m more of a jack-of-all-trades, than master of one, but would probably pick out “COSHH” over “asbestos” or “plasma cutting”.
What do you enjoy doing when you’re not working?
My interests mainly revolve around my family; any spare time that I have, I am an avid runner (with a bit of swimming & cycling thrown in). I enjoy hill walking, playing music (acoustic/electric guitar) and reading.
Football or rugby (and which team)?
Football – Liverpool FC
Cat or dog?
Dogs when I was younger, now converted to Cats!
Chocolate or cheese?
Another tough one, with the family it could be, Jungle 2 Jungle, My Big Fat Greek Wedding or any Harry Potter, but personally it would be Band of Brothers (mini-series)…Fantastic!
Easy! Lord of the Rings – JRR Tolkien (Read it when I was 12, lost count how many times since)
Where did you last go on holiday?
Netherlands – campervan tour in 2017 via the overnight ferry from Newcastle upon Tyne…definitely an experience!
What was the last music album you bought?
Elton John – Revamp.