We can be heroes – and not just for one day
Some people know what they want to do from a young age and devote the rest of the lives to doing it. Mother Theresa. Nelson Mandela. Mahatma Gandhi.
These heroes had a vocation - something which drove them every moment of every day - a calling that they couldn’t ignore.
Most people, however, do not. Jobs are stumbled upon, taken in desperation and then (often) endured.
That was me. I’d like to say that Quality and Health & Safety were my vocation. But no. I was 22 years old when I got my first job as a Quality Control Technician. Upon hearing that I’d got the job, I didn’t have an outpouring of energy and pride because I had finally realised my long-held dream of working in Quality. Instead, I heaved a huge sigh of relief because the rent was due and groceries had to be bought and I was sick of being unemployed. A guy offered me a job; I took it. End of.
And it’s not what you’d call a glamour industry. The uniform of choice is either the unflattering neon of high vis or the looks-good-on-absolutely-no-one white lab coat.
There’s no level of cool, either. No-friends Nigel/Nigella over there with his or her quality checklists on a clipboard…no, not the cool table at all.
So how is it that I have come to love this no-glamour, nerdy, completely-lacking-in-social-cool industry? Why does QHSE feel like a vocation to me now, and not just a job?
Because every day as a QHSE professional, I see you do heroic things. Things that make a difference - to your customers, your colleagues and the very earth we live on.
Every day, there you are - the eyes, ears and voice of the customer, trying to improve the quality of the product leaving the factory floor or the services provided. You try to make sure that customers’ hard earned money gets them a quality product, one which will do exactly what it says on the tin. You don’t want to let them down by putting out shoddy stuff or giving poor service. You want to enhance their lives. To do this you often have to make unpopular decisions, or stand up to a belligerent or apathetic senior manager. Not fun but you do it anyway.
Every day I see the likes of you trying to make workplaces safer. You make sure that everyone has the safety gear they need. You look at the big picture, working through hazards and processes, trying to spot improvements. You are conscientious about this so that no-one has to suffer losing their sight, a limb or (god forbid) their life at work.
Every day I see people like you trying to reduce waste, pollution and environmental degradation - helping to reduce the size of humanity’s big, sloppy footprint.
Of course none of these minor acts of heroism will make the six o’clock news. They aren’t deemed worthy of an award or a medal. But they are very, very important. Bit by bit you are standing up for positive change. You are working to make your company, your colleague’s lives, and the world, better.
Not all heroism can be measured in column inches or Wikipedia entries, but that doesn’t make it any less important.
So I say embrace the tag “White Coated Wonder”. Wear your high-vis gear with pride. Go out there and be a QHSE hero, every day.