Career Spotlight - Janet Nerenberg, from Civil Servant to HSE Manager

by Sophia Darwin

At HSE Recruitment we work to develop long lasting relationships with our candidates and clients alike, and nothing delights us more than seeing Janet’s career progression and success.

So Janet, How did you get started in a career in health and safety?

I was a civil servant for many years before leaving to raise my family. When I came back to work, I was employed by Castle Cement, initially as a purchasing clerk then as a buyer for the company in their purchasing team. I then took a different career path within the Cement works when an opportunity to work as H&S Assistant became available, this was a pivotal turning point in my career, which saw me having to start learning again, initially completing the NEBOSH general certificate. I was mentored by Chris Fish the site H&S Manager at that time. He was an inspiration to me and together I was able to combine both his superb knowledge of legislation and my ability to engage and gain buy - in with the workforce.

What paths did you take to get into health and safety?

To be honest I had never even thought about a career in Health & Safety, and feel that having experience doing other things has helped me get where I am today. I have developed an interest in keeping others safe and found my true passion, people matter.

Can you please tell us about your job now?

I have been at Warburtons over 6 years now and taken the Burnley site and Squires Gate depot in Blackpool on a progressive journey in regard to HSE and have seen a noticeable improvement in the accident frequency rate and days lost, with individuals reporting even the most minor of injuries, which enables us to regularly re-evaluate to ensure we are always safe. We use a Safe reporting card, ‘see, act, feedback and eliminate’ which we are just starting to re-brand and has been utilised well. The site is working towards a maturity matrix similar to Du Pont and are constantly looking to further engage and involve all employees at all levels of the business in H&S. We have recently grown the team and hired an HSE Advisor who I have coached and developed.

What are the biggest challenges day-to-day for you as a health and safety professional?

It’s always a fine balance between proactive vs reactive safety management and prioritising tasks based on risk factors. You can never just sit back, always having to re-visit and continually drive safety compliance at a high level. Also, it is all about having the right staff in the right roles to ensure the everyone is working to the best of their capability. Compliance against legislation and behavioural safety must be integrated, winning over hearts and minds as well as setting the standards is an essential part of safety management.


“A fine balance between proactive vs reactive safety management”


What do you find most rewarding about working in health and safety?

When the workforce you have are influenced, come forward with solutions, with safety a priority in what they are doing, supporting the dynamic risk assessments for non-routine jobs that are spot checked. People are SO important to carry your safety message and live by those values even when no one is watching.


“People are SO important to carry your safety message”


What do you feel is the most important thing when trying to get people on board with health and safety?

I believe that safety management is a fundamental right for everybody and a dual responsibility with both colleagues and the business in partnership. It is crucial that safety is owned by the team and that that accountability for safety is relevant for everyone.

What would be your top tips for someone about to start out in health and safety?

  • Be a sales person, coach individual to sell safety to others
  • Always explain why!
  • Be open minded, resilient and flexible
  • Strong communication skills, speak to people on their level and make safety personal to them
  • Be open to wearing lots of different hats
  • Drive accountability
  • Have confidence to take ownership of safety via training and support as this will equate to the right decisions being made
  • Be empathetic and have a human touch


“take ownership of safety via training and support”


What (in your opinion) makes a good Health and Safety professional?

Having the ability to know and understand safety, know when to advise and when to reach out to other specialists for example a specialist in DSEAR. Site based roles see us covering a multitude of different subjects and legislative guidance, very much a general practitioner, knowing what we don’t know and seeking advice is essential. Additionally, not being frightened of learning and be humble and honest!

What is your career plan over the next five years?

I’ve just accepted a role as Head of H&S for a multisite organisation, my aim is to take them on a safety journey where everyone lives and breathes H&S and where individuals are taking ownership and get to the point where they automatically embed safety into their lives… Then eventually retire and enjoy a long, healthy and safe retirement, knowing I’ve made a difference in my career.

Thanks so much Janet for taking the time out to speak to us - if anyone has any questions for Janet pop me an email (


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