Safety first for manager Orla

    Orla Hoy

    THIS week’s My Kind of Job is Orla Hoy, who works at Craigavon-based Interface

    What’s your job?

    I’m the UK health, safety and environmental manager for Interface, a global manufacturer of modular flooring. I’m based in their Craigavon factory.

    How did you get there?

    Not directly would be the quick answer! I graduated from Queen’s with a degree in Mechanical Engineering before joining Ulster Industrial Explosives, a manufacturer of industrial explosives for use in the quarrying industry. I progressed to become the plant manager, which, as you’d expect for the industry, involved a big element of health and safety.

    I enjoyed it so much that I decided to specialize in it – joining Interface five-years ago following a spell with the then Lisburn City Council.

    Do you have a typical working day?

    I’m not sure anyone has a typical working day anymore!

    While there are always a number of long-term projects underway, particularly global projects, which involve colleagues from Holland, the US and further afield, the unexpected will invariably happen.

    I work closely with all of our safety reps across all of the plant’s shifts. With 200 staff and five million sq m of modular flooring under production every year there are always improvements to be made.

    What qualifications do you have?

    In addition to my degree I’ve completed a Premier Management Development course and keep up-to-date with CPD (Continuous Professional Development). Internally I’ve qualified as a Sustainability Ambassador, which involves work with local schools and attending conferences.

    Interface has a vision to eliminate any negative impact its operations have on the environment by 2020 and they’ve made great strides. In the past decade our Craigavon site has sent zero waste to landfill, 60 per cent of our incoming yarn is sourced from recycled materials and we’ve introduced new products with a smaller carbon footprint.

    What other skills do you need in your role?

    It’s essential to be a good communicator and get on well with people. You need to understand how human error interacts with a mechanised process, and have the determination and commitment to drive positive change.

    What’s the best thing about your job?

    Despite the seriousness of the work it’s also really enjoyable. I’ve got great colleagues and we have a lot of fun, which is important considering how much time we spend together and the value of having a good team ethos.

    And the worst?

    Firefighting – although not literally! There’s always so much to do, prioritizing what to tackle next can be a job in itself.

    What do you think are the greatest challenges/pressures of the job?

    As a global operation I have responsibilities at a UK, EMEA (European, Middle East & Asia) and international level. Each business centre generates its own projects and these need to be balanced against internal demands. I sometimes feel like the proverbial circus plate spinner!

    What did you want to be when you were at school?

    Oddly enough I wanted to be a vet, which really has no overlap at all with what I’ve ended up doing. I sometimes think teaching would have been a good option; I’m quite creative and I could see myself as an art teacher in an alternative life.

    What advice would you give someone considering a career in your profession?

    Qualifications are good (and unavoidable), but in truth experience is better than anything else. Health and safety is a surprisingly broad area, so I’d encourage those interested in it to gain as much experience as they can in different industries. Take every opportunity to work alongside your colleagues, shadow people on the shop floor and get a real feel for how the operation works. Good health and safety protocols depend upon both a practical and theoretical understanding.

    What’s the most common question people ask when they find out what you do?

    I’ve had comments about being in the ‘fun police’ more than a few times, with the assumption that health and safety is there to take the fun out of things. Obviously I disagree – there’s really nothing amusing about preventable accidents.

    How do you like to relax outside work?

    I’ve two young children, six and ten. They’re exhausting, but I love spending time with them and going cycling with my son. I also volunteer at a youth club where I let my inner art teacher come out to play with arts and crafts projects.


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