Name – Emma Smyth
Company – Health & Safety Services NI
Role – Placement Student
Degree – BSc Hons Environmental Health at Ulster University
Talk us through your typical work day?
A typical work day for me starts with checking my emails every morning on arrival. Generally, the Health and Safety Officer within the business will have tasks set out for me to complete daily. These tasks usually include completing RAMS (Risk Assessments and Method Statements). Once I have completed these statements I share them with the appropriate Health and Safety Officers for a final review. Occasionally, I will also accompany the Health and Safety Officer out on visits to various businesses that want to enhance the health and safety of their workplaces. In particular, this is a part of my Ulster University placement that I enjoy the most. It is great to get out on the ground and see for myself what a business needs to do to safeguard the health and safety of its employees and customers.
What has surprised you the most?
The thing that has surprised me the most is how much responsibility a placement student can be trusted with. Personally, I feel that being trusted with various tasks is very rewarding – it makes me feel like a real asset to the company and a valued member of the team. Another big surprise for me was the difference from sitting in a classroom learning to being in the workplace and actually applying what you have learnt. Through my studies at Ulster University, I am very aware about how vital health and safety is in the workplace, and how seriously it should be taken in order to help prevent accidents. However, since starting in HSSNI, I have been surprised about how my knowledge for health and safety has developed.
What has been your biggest challenge and achievement?
When planning for my Ulster University placement year it was always in the back of my mind how I would juggle working commitments with my extra-curricular activities such as sport. This was certainly a big struggle for me when starting placement as I wasn’t used to having such a busy lifestyle all week, every week. However, I feel that with time I got used to a routine, my energy has improved and I am a lot more productive with my days. My biggest achievement has been outside of the workplace, where I have been able to maintain a high level of success with my sports interests.
What skills and qualities have you developed through your role?
I am now almost half-way through my Ulster University placement year and already I feel like I have gained many skills and qualities that I did not have before. Since starting placement my social skills have developed greatly as I am interacting with work colleagues and customers daily. Working with people a lot of the time I feel that I am becoming more confident and I have more belief in myself as young professional. Each day I travel around 40 miles to and from placement, this is inevitably a long distance to travel and my punctuality and time-keeping skills have greatly enhanced. I am very enthusiastic and passionate about my role and as a result I am always willing and wanting to learn more.
What first attracted you to the role?
When looking for placement I was always interested in gaining one that was focused on health and safety. This was an area of my Ulster University degree in environmental health that I enjoyed learning about the most and something that I am very interested in. When researching potential placement options, I came across HSSNI and felt that I would enjoy working as part of a team like this whilst growing my health and safety knowledge and understanding. HSSNI delivers a wide range of health and safety training and offers health and safety consultancy for businesses. The main aim of the company is to ensure that all businesses can understand and comply with health and safety legislation and codes of practice.
How do you think this will help your future career?
I feel having gained such valuable experience at HSSNI with a highly competent health and safety team that I will be much more employable in the future. Increasingly employers are now looking for candidates who have practical experience under their belt and not just academic achievements. As highlighted above I am only half way through my Ulster University placement year and I already feel that I have gained various skills and qualities. In a future career, I know that my placement year will give me the competitive edge.
Top Tips for applying for a placement role.
My advice to anyone applying for a placement would be to apply to as many options as possible related to their degree. When applying for placement roles students should take any guidance from tutors on board as they will be able to offer help and support. Another tip would be to start looking for placement as soon as possible and don’t leave it to the last minute. Everyone tells me experience is essential to apply for future jobs and I would advise students to gain as much experience as possible.