As part of our #HereForDerby campaign we talk to Darren Allsobrook about his role as Corporate Health and Safety Team Manager and about how coronavirus has driven his team over the last few months.
The team support the council with policy development, advice and guidance in relation to risk assessments, training development and delivery for the management of health whilst supporting teams and ensuring that they deliver services safely, both for the employee and the customers accessing them.
Darren says “I’ve been in the manager’s post since May 2019. The thing I’m most proud of is raising the profile of Health and Safety across the council. Turning around the perception of us as a service. it’s really more proactive now and services considered us and ask for support in advance, rather than just ‘oh there’s been a disaster let’s go and ask Health and Safety for help’.
“I’m also really proud of where I’ve got to. Like Paul Simpson, I started as a trainee, but at the County Council 34 years ago, it’s a good message, trainees move up, so there is hope!”
At the start of the pandemic, Darren filled in the Skills Survey and was matched against roles within Home First – however, it soon became clear that he was required back to the day job so moved into the ‘COVID response role’ which has become our ‘business as usual’.
“The job has changed in the fact that each and every day there’s new Government guidance to review. With the risk assessments to support services, it’s almost like shifting sands, that we can give somebody guidance one day and then we have to review it because it’s changed overnight. The wearing of face coverings a prime example.
“We’re having to be responsive and fluid to respond to changes but also be the front foot informing people about changes, putting out guidance, information and support in a format that is clear for the staff to follow. We’re now planning some audit work so those risk assessments that have been approved we can go back and check the teams are complying with the controls they’ve put in.”
“We’ve also had to work on really short time scales. It’s good to see that some of the bureaucratic has gone. For example, with the announcement that schools could take classes back we first of all put together a template guidance for schools to follow and then the team reviewed 45 school risk assessments in a week, so they could open in a timely manner. It was quite stressful. I don’t think I’ve ever worked so hard for so long at such a pace.”
However, he also says this was a real challenge which the team met and have received great feedback. “We’ve had three HSE (Health and Safety Executive) enquiries, regarding complaints or incidents reported to them that the council wasn’t following COVID guidance and procedures. We were able to demonstrate in our response to the HSE that the work we’ve done, the governance we’ve put in place, with the PPE group, the Policy group, the unlocking the lockdown group and all the work with risk assessments has proven to the HSE that actually we are on the right track. We are doing the right thing and they’ve confirmed that by closing the investigation no further action, so those have been really good endorsements.”
It’s been a real challenge for him and his small team. He says “the team has risen to the occasion and I’m proud of what we’ve achieved. It’s been a challenge but really rewarding and one of the benefits of all this is that the profile of the team and of health and safety itself has never been higher.”