Clark Martin: the Preston firm making health and safety cool again
Having previously worked in Preston Prison as an officer before taking a job with the probation service which saw her work with incarcerated veterans, it's fair to say Katie Booth likes a challenge. In fact, she explicitly says so herself.
And given that she works in health and safety whilst her partner works in construction, her latest challenge with occupational health and safety consultancy firm Clark Martin is one she is relishing.
Based in Freckleton, Clark Martin specialises in working with small construction and manufacturing businesses, with its ultimate focus being on ensuring maximum protection for their clients, their employees, and the public. Founded by friends and now-directors Ian Martin and Joe Clark, the fledgling company's management team boasts over 30 years’ experience of integrating health and safety policy.
Working in an industry which gets a bad rap for being overtly litigious and the primary arm of the "nanny state", the company is fundamentally focused on keeping people safe, extolling the virtue of logical approaches to reducing the risk of unwarranted interruption and costs to businesses whilst meeting requirements. More safety, less interruption to business as usual. That's the name of the game.
"Not many people are massively keen on health and safety, but I was interested in it because my other half works in construction, so I see that side of it," explained Katie, 37. "They all hate it because it's seen as wasting time and an expense no business wants or needs which slows things down. They think you have no idea of what they do as a job and ask 'how can you come and tell me what to do?'
"I quite like a challenge, so for me it was the mission of changing those attitudes towards health and safety on sites and getting people on board which motivated me," she added, having started the job earlier this year. "It all depends of how you approach people: if you go into it with your pen and papers and tell them 'you should be doing this', then they're less likely to listen to you.
"But if you listen to what their bugbears are and talk about how they can overcome that, it can be really beneficial."
For Katie, insight into how businesses actually operate and what employees think is crucial.
"Being collaborative is the biggest part of it: getting employees on board," she explained. "It's all well and good to go into a business and do a load of risk assessments and tell them what they should be doing, but chatting with people and seeing what their issues actually are means they're more likely to take what you advise on board. It's about using their knowledge.
"Ultimately, people want to get home to their families at the end of the day, and no one wants to be in an accident," added Katie, from Preston. "It's all about what will keep people safe. I think attitudes towards health and safety will start to change, and that has started in the industry itself: we're more collaborative now and involve workers more.
"It's shifting away from being negative and all about punishments and laws."
What is more, with Ian being NEBOSH- (National Examination Board in Occupational Safety and Health) qualified and boasting 18 years' experience in the rail industry and quantity surveyor Joe bringing 15 years' experience of working on construction projects whilst also an interior refurbishment company, the company has the expertise to match their positive approach.
"I really enjoy it," said Katie of her work, which she has found to be remarkably similar to her previous jobs at Preston Prison and with the probation service. "It's fascinating how you can transfer skills from one job to another: I've essentially been risk assessing people for 10 years, it's just that now I'm risk assessing sites and buildings.
"Keeping people safe: that's the theme of my career!" she added.