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Our health and safety volunteer: John Docherty

(Now employed as our full time Health & Safety Advisor)

Why did you choose to volunteer?

I first started looking for opportunities to gain experience when I decided to change career. I had a life changing accident that meant my job role at the time would potentially leave me unable to walk. I shattered my kneecap and tore my leg in half which took years to recover from. I saw how the nurses and NHS staff loved their jobs yet I know public perception is they are underpaid. I wasn’t too keen on my job and always thought it was natural to dislike work. I was really only doing it because it was well paid, but it was a dead end job with few prospects of promotion for me. I decided I wanted to help people and prevent them being harmed for a living so looked for career paths that a gas engineer could move in to. I found that health and safety would be a perfect choice, but recognised it as challenging and that I would need help/mentoring.

I went to college to study NEBOSH national general but found myself in the inexperience trap when applying for jobs. I asked my employer if I could volunteer during non-working days to gain experience in health and safety management. I started to look for external opportunities and Beyond Housing, at the time, had advertised on Facebook for a health and safety volunteer. What was offered far exceeded what my employer had proposed.

What did you enjoy most about volunteering?

Initially, I enjoyed meeting new people who were clearly passionate in their roles and I enjoyed the challenges of being well out my comfort zone. I enjoy working in an environment that promotes positivity. When I started to deliver training at Westfield Farm it was great to meet other volunteers and hear their stories and reasons for volunteering – that became and remains something I look forward to. Ultimately, I loved volunteering because it gave me the opportunity to realise my ambition of developing my career in health and safety. I enjoyed giving back to the community whilst gaining new skills, not just skills you might associate with the role of health and safety advisors.

How has volunteering helped you? 

I was lucky that I had the resources to self-fund qualifications and through volunteering, I had the potential to gain the experience levels required for NEBOSH fire cert and a level 6 diploma. Volunteering at Beyond Housing gave me the chance to gain job experience and helped me get some of the qualifications that ultimately led to a job offer. I learnt IT skills, I learnt how to present and that increased my confidence significantly.

I have started to grow plants at home through tips at Westfield Farm! But might need a bit a more assistance.

Without volunteering I don’t see how I would ever have succeeded in moving from an unenjoyable, dead end job to realising my ambitions of working in the health and safety profession and working to prevent people experiencing harm.