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Karen Young MIIRSM

Meet Our Members

Karen is Health and Safety Advisor at Scottish Water

“Being a member has given me credibility, as well as a way to demonstrate my ongoing commitment to my new career by having an easy-to-use CPD scheme”

Karen began her career as a civil engineer for Thames Water, so managing project risks has always been part of her job. As her career developed and safety management became more integral to project management, particularly through CDM, she started to take more of an interest in health and safety. “The lightbulb moment for me was when I realised that the musculoskeletal disorders and other health issues that affected so many of the workforce could have been avoided by managing those risks out,” Karen explains. “Essentially construction had broken so many of the colleagues that had helped me in my early career.”

Karen self-funded an Msc in Occupational H&S but didn’t immediately get the opportunity to change careers. That came a few years later while working as a project manager at Scottish Water. “I was working closely with the safety team to manage H&S on a couple of complex projects when an opening came up in their team. I applied and got the job, and I’ve never looked back!”

Scottish Water is currently two thirds of the way through a six-year investment programme to deliver over £3.9 billion of improvements to Scotland’s water and waste-water infrastructure. Karen is part of a trio of advisors who provide comprehensive H&S advice across the whole spectrum of the Scottish Water’s Capital Investment Directorate portfolio.

“People used to think that the health and safety advisor ‘did’ the H&S for a project, that I would turn up with my bucket of safety and that would make the project safe,” says Karen. “Now there’s a growing understanding that I am there to help them manage the H&S risks associated with their project in the same way that they manage commercial risk, for example. This means we are engaged earlier and can add more value to the project, helping them to identify risks early on and design them out. It also means we are very much in demand – but for all the right reasons.”

When Karen joined Scottish Water’s health and safety team, her line manager recommended she join IIRSM – he’d been a member for many years and felt that with her civil engineering background she would enjoy the fact that IIRSM encompasses all types of risk, not just safety. “Being a member has given me credibility, as well as a way to demonstrate my ongoing commitment to my new career by having an easy-to-use CPD scheme,” explains Karen.

“The information on the IIRSM website is superb, it enables me to keep on top of legislative changes as well as access a huge number of articles on a variety of topics, from modern slavery to wearables. The magazine provides useful information about industry best practice, allowing me to keep up to date and to develop my knowledge base easily.”

The best part of being a risk practitioner, Karen says, is that you never know what the next question is likely to be. For example, she was recently asked to help manage the risks associated with an aquatic macrophyte survey in a loch, and to help identify the risks associated with forestry activities for a project. “Every day brings a new challenge and the chance to learn something new!”

Karen says she particularly likes that IIRSM is internationally recognised and has a holistic approach to risk management, recognising that there are many project risks that need to be considered in the planning and implementation of construction work which drive the decision making and behaviours of the team. IIRSM gives her the tools to understand these risks and help in the decision-making process.

“There is a real family feel about IIRSM. It feels more like a community of professionals than a traditional membership body.”

If you would like to join our community you can make an online application here.