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Diversity and inclusion are pivotal in cultivating innovation and excellence within the health and safety

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Diversity and inclusion are pivotal in cultivating innovation and excellence within the health and safety

NEBOSH article

Shermin Shali, an accomplished HSEQ Manager in the energy solutions sector, shares her inspiring journey and insights into the significance of diversity in this critical field.

Shermin, originally from Kerala, India, discovered her passion for health and safety when she moved to the Middle East. A NEBOSH International General Certificate secured her a health and safety role on a major construction project in Abu Dhabi, laying the groundwork for a rapid career advancement. Shermin later added a NEBOSH International Diploma to her credentials in 2017 and now serves as a key member of the ENGIE Solutions team in Qatar.

In an exclusive interview, Shermin sheds light on her motivations and experiences in the health and safety profession.

What inspired you to work in health and safety?

My inspiration to work in health and safety stems from a fundamental belief that every employee is not just an individual but a hope for many. For me, saving one person means saving many. I firmly believe we can prevent 100% of incidents, and I aspire to be a link in a chain of proactive measures. I am driven by the belief that pre-emptive measures can prevent accidents and nurture a culture of safety that protects individuals and the broader community.

What do you most enjoy about working in health and safety?

The opportunity to make a tangible impact on people’s lives through my work in health and safety is one of the most fulfilling aspects of my work. Every step contributes to a profound sense of accomplishment, from setting strategies to implementing safety measures and fostering a safety-conscious culture. Educating colleagues and instilling a proactive approach enhances workplace safety and resonates with everyone’s well-being.

The global nature of our practice adds an extra dimension to the satisfaction I derive from my work. Health and safety are universal goals, making it a truly global profession that offers opportunities to work in diverse locations and industries worldwide. This global perspective provides a unique chance to contribute to the public’s welfare on a broader scale, transcending geographical and industry boundaries. It’s gratifying to know that my efforts contribute to the well-being of others.

What are you most proud of in your career?

It fills me with immense pride when I reflect on my health and safety journey spanning over 15 years. I see myself as a catalyst for positive change, consistently enhancing the safety culture within the organizations I’ve been a part of. An achievement I am proud of was developing and certifying a robust management system, a foundation that laid the groundwork for elevated safety standards.

As my career progressed, I reached new heights by receiving international awards for innovative safety ideas. These acknowledgments validated the effectiveness of my contributions and reinforced my commitment to pushing the boundaries of safety excellence. I seized opportunities to lead and implement culturally-influencing campaigns, fostering a mindset where safety is not just a protocol but a way of life.

Joining ENGIE Solutions in June 2023 marked another personal career milestone. My goal in this progressive organization is to leave an indelible mark by further enhancing safety practices and contributing to the organization’s success. This journey has been more than a career; it’s been a continuous pursuit of excellence and a commitment to ensuring the well-being of every individual in the workplace.

Membership to NEBOSH Alumni and IOSH adds another layer of accomplishment to my journey. The recognition from these esteemed organisations reflects a commitment to upholding the highest standards in health and safety. It’s not just a membership; it symbolizes dedication to continuous learning and embracing industry best practices.

Moreover, I take immense pride and joy in standing firm and accomplished as a female professional in a predominantly male-dominated industry. Overcoming challenges and breaking barriers has been personally fulfilling and, I believe, a source of inspiration for others aspiring to make their mark in this field. It’s a reminder that diversity and inclusion are essential for fostering innovation and excellence in health and safety practices.

What advice would you give to women interested in or starting out in the HSE profession?

Believe in yourself. Challenges are constant, but great things will follow if you are resolute in your career path and keep yourself up-to-date. As a professional, I polish and update my skillsets to thrive in a highly dynamic environment. Further, mentoring programs are a great way to meet and learn from fellow professionals.

Are there any groups or support networks for women in the industry that you would recommend?

Yes, I highly recommend the NEBOSH Alumni, IOSH and Health and Safety Executive, which focus on supporting and empowering women in the health and safety industry. These groups provide valuable resources, networking opportunities, and a platform for sharing experiences and insights.

How can HSE professionals help to create an inclusive and diverse workforce?

This is a great need for a balanced society; gender should never be a hindrance to success!

Lawmakers can play a vital role by establishing gender parity in their organisations. Policies and practices should be set to overcome occupational segregation by gender and there should be transparency to ensure there are no barriers to women’s advancement and well-being. Things we can do to create an inclusive and diverse workforce are:

  • Encourage women-friendly culture
  • Department/leadership-level diversity
  • Mother-friendly policies
  • Flexible work schedule
  • Maternity engagement and post-maternity support
  • Women’s safety and well-being measures
  • Concession for memberships/conferences etc.

As HSE professionals, we can influence leadership – and the wider workforce – by being firm, consistent and clear with our message. Use common platforms and encourage and empower others.

Source: World of Safety & Health Asia, February 2024 issue

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