As we approach the end of the year, we are looking ahead to 2022 – a big year for us as we celebrate 20 years of Alpha Training, as well as hitting some important milestones for our sister companies: Rescue 2 celebrates 10 years in business and Face Fit Testing UK 5 years.

We would also like to take the opportunity to introduce you to the Lyra Group – the new umbrella name for all of our businesses. Each business will continue to operate as a separate entity with no changes to any of our customers.

Hitting a big company milestone is the ideal time to look back, as well as ahead to the future, so we recently caught up with Managing Director Shaun Jackaman. Shaun Jackaman

What are the biggest changes that you’ve seen to health and safety training since you first started out?

“The most fundamental change has been the increase in information available and the easy access to that information via the internet – within a few clicks on the computer or phone, we now have access to a huge amount of resources on how to keep our employees safe, and how they can keep themselves safe.

With the change in accessibility to information has come a cultural change whereby businesses see the benefits of a strong safety culture and understand why they need to focus on the prevention and elimination of risks. It feels like we now live in a culture where people actually want to get involved, learn and understand safety across different industries, and that is a huge improvement that I’ve seen in my time.

I started out as a Fire Fighter and looking back now at some of the jobs we were involved in in the 80’s and 90’s, it is scary how little we knew – we didn’t really understand fire back then in the way we do now. The training that Fire Fighters get these days is so much more advanced; they’re taught to read the scenario before making an entry and follow a command process whilst weighing up the risk to life.

So whilst lots of things have changed for the better, others haven’t as much as we would like: the number one cause of fatalities in industry is still fall from height which accounts for 25% of fatalities each year in the UK. In my view, that’s because people don’t visually see the risk, and it therefore doesn’t exist in their minds – so we have to keep that cycle of education going.”

Tell us about some of the worst real-life examples of bad health and safety practice you’ve seen in your time.

“There are too many to mention, and the sad thing is that many of them are still happening now, mainly to cut corners, do it quicker or do it cheaper! I still see scaffolders on domestic building sites in shorts and trainers, without any safety gear working on house roofs. Or labourers laying a new driveway, cutting bricks with cut off saws who don’t protect themselves from the silica dust.

When I was still in the Fire Services, I remember attending a call where a chap had been installing electrical cables in a factory unit and had wrongly assumed that his colleague had isolated the electrics. Sadly, it ended up as a fatal incident. It struck me as such a catastrophic event – such a simple mistake that meant he was not going to go home to his family that evening, just because he didn’t check with his colleague. What people need to understand is that it’s not just about themselves, but their loved ones as well.”

What made you want to set up your own training company?

“The move from the Fire Services to training was a natural next step for me when the opportunity arose, and I think the front-line experience helped to make the training we delivered more exciting and relevant; people respond differently to stories and anecdotes rather than just looking at a screen (or acetates as it was in my day!). They process the information differently and retain so much more once they can see the relevance to their everyday lives, be that at work or at home. This is something we still champion at Alpha today, making our training as realistic and relevant to the individual as possible.

When I really think about it, it comes down to wanting to make a difference and – as dramatic as it sounds – save lives. I have witnessed many tragic incidents during my time in the Fire Service, and I couldn’t help but think that many of the lives lost could have been prevented if there had been more awareness and knowledge at the time. Even after all this time, this is something that I remain hugely passionate about where I feel that the work we do can make a difference of life or death.”

20 years on, are there any particular industries that you feel should be doing more when it comes to health and safety?

“Although much has improved, it’s still a broad spectrum and there’s work to be done still across industries. Most of the large construction and utilities companies we work with now have a really solid safety culture which means that even before the workers set foot on site, they have to complete a safety program from mandatory training to getting fully kitted out with the correct PPE. That isn’t necessarily the case for a small local builder who works in a more domestic setting. Basic things such as the right PPE or following safe working processes are not being followed, and that’s because of a lack of education and governance.

Another one is farming, a huge industry in this country. Most farms are family run and as a result tend to work in a more insular way, with work practices being passed down through generations. The mindset is still very much ‘we’ve always done it this way’ but it’s great to see bodies such as the Young Farmers Association doing some work around this, and it has started to get better.”

What trends or developments do you see happening in the industry in the future?

“Unsurprisingly, I think the future of our industry will be driven by technology and innovation.

Virtual or augmented reality is going to play a bigger part in simulating a real-life training environment. I have seen so-called igloos being used as an immersive teaching environment for a water company – a real life road setting with cars and people walking past is projected onto the walls of this igloo, and it’s used to teach their teams how to change a water meter in a road, it’s fantastic!

I can also see huge benefits in drone technology – having the option to get a gadget to perform functions that traditionally would have been carried out by an individual brings huge advantages. For example, in a fire context, being able to survey a site from the air without someone entering, and the infrared technology spotting fire pockets, is a complete game changer.

Or in a confined space environment, drones are being used to send in various environments helping to reduce the need for a person to even go into it. Anything we can do to keep people safe has got to be a good thing!”

Is there anything you miss about being in the Fire Services?

“People usually think that it’s the camaraderie but for me, it’s the adrenaline I miss. There’s nothing that compares to the adrenaline rush you get from the fire bell sounding, or entering a structural fire or other emergency situation where lives may be at risk. In the early days the alarm at the station was literally a bell on the wall which sounded when you had a fire call. It used to make me jump out of my skin at times and it’s a wonder no one ever had a heart attack when it sounded! It used to make my heart thump in my chest when I would be running for the fire pole.

Fortunately these days it’s more electronic and the sound is more subtle with information being given to crews even before they have got onto the fire appliance which is invaluable.

How times have changed!”

 

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