To mark International Women's Day 2021 we are profiling just some of the amazing women who work for and with us. Sheila Pantry OBE, health, safety and fire information expert and winner of the RoSPA Award for Distinguished Service in 2000 shares some of her career highlights to date:
“I first became involved in health and safety when I was appointed as regional information
officer to the National Coal Board - this was in the days when we had a large mining industry in the UK. Mining was/is a dangerous industry so health and safety information was vital.
“This job led to me being appointed head of information services for the then newly-established Health and Safety Executive. The remit was to establish a network of 30 OSH information centres, including the three HSE Laboratories, at Buxton, Cricklewood and Sheffield. It also involved making OSH information available using then very new electronic services, such as CD-ROMs, long before the internet was born.
“What I love most about my job is meeting people and helping them to understand the importance of validated and authoritative information that is up-to date. I worry that people are making decisions in their workplaces without training and current information and that is why so many people are sadly killed or made ill daily by working conditions worldwide.
“COVID-19 has changed everything in workplaces globally. We have learned a lot – now it the time to have a big conversation and make a new roadmap, looking again at the how, why, when and what. New jobs and workplaces are appearing rapidly.
“It’s absolutely brilliant to be a woman in health and safety. I was so lucky with a team of wonderful, enthusiastic, knowledgeable staff and colleagues. This continued when I started taking the idea of OSH information linked with technology wherever I went in the world.
“Challenges I’ve had to overcome are a lack of understanding by some people of what health and safety was all about – remember this was all new territory. Often I was the only woman in meetings, which was very interesting. I learned to socialise after meetings and join in the wider conversations. I made some lifelong friends that way.
“The advice I would you give to women interested in getting involved in health and safety would be to promote yourself and the knowledge you have – it is good to see many more really senior OSH jobs are now held by women. Learn how to give talks/presentations and how to make sure your views are known in meetings with other organisations.
“I think female students deciding on their careers and going to universities should be encouraged more to take degrees in STEM – science, technology, engineering and mathematics, as they are the most exciting areas. My own career has enabled me to work and live in Africa and over 20 other countries.
“I think a lot of the success I’ve had has been about being at the right place and the right time and being willing to accept challenges. And most of all, curiosity about all things (and especially people) and a motto that ‘everything is possible’.”
This article has been kindly sponsored by L'Oréal, which is raising the profile of and increasing opportunities for women in health and safety throughout 2021.Developing the abilities of women as a currently underrepresented group in occupational health and safety (OSH) and enhancing their visibility in the sector is at the heart of the partnership between the two organisations. See: www.rospa.com/partnerships/loreal-partnership
Posted: 3/4/2021 12:08:44 PM