Career Spotlight - Nik Adams - Group Health, Safety & Environment 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 Nik’s career progression and success.

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

I was offered the position of SHE manager in 1999. Also had a fairly competent knowledge on H&S legislation and compliance from my previous management positions working in meat industry and construction. I started as SHE manager, then promoted to Group H&S Manager in 2000 spending 19 years in Frozen Confectionery; I did of course spend time in other roles throughout the 19yrs with the same company from overseeing departments, as manufacturing and warehouse/despatch. These roles were supportive roles due to acquiring other businesses and mergers. I was then asked to return back to group H&S role in 2006; since then I have continued to work in HSE arena. In 2014 I started new group position with large confectionery business providing them with new strategy towards improving HSE management across the group.

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

Completed various specific NEBOSH / IOSH and Vocational qualifications, with specific compliance courses…..which I continue to fulfil each year. Again courses help give you a platform, I would say exposure to specific legislation is key on ensuring that you increase your under-pinning knowledge as you never stop learning within HSE arena.

Can you please tell us about your job now?

I work for Leading Confectionery brand which produces classic sweets for both ROB and Brand based products. I oversee 6 sites, with 3 HSE regional managers and HSE administrator reporting into me, with further responsibilities within Energy, Hygiene and Security across the group.

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

Buy-in and ensuring that both my team and I have visibility among all stakeholders, testing when you can spend days keeping track and updating specific paperwork, I would say that technology is giving us an advantage from the days of handwriting RAs and investigations etc. Overall we have a stable buy in with stakeholders, this helps with having the right passion and rapport building skills; either from senior management to shop floor.


“Buy in and ensuring Visibility “


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

Giving out “Thankyou’s…when I mean thankyou’s, it takes more than just “pat’s on the back” it’s about highlighting individuals who have gone above and beyond to help ensure we operate safer sites and rewarding them either financially; or a part of their next promotion within the business; important that anyone moving into a position of responsibility and managing employees understand risks; this gives me the return on them managing safety and having the right attitude towards ownership. Always been keen to adopt this, as I am always on the lookout for the next generation of stakeholders who can pick up HSE functions at site…often is the case that home-grown talent can tend to be the better choice for businesses.


“highlighting individuals who have gone above and beyond”


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

Rapport building, essential life skill and the most important skill for anyone who may be thinking of a career in HSE arena, these roles regardless of group, regional or just site based are not for those who are shy or retiring- you do need a strong personality, and often the role is a delicate balance between policeman and preacher, as you are often seen as the law on site, and the law does need to be preached or heavily policed, again without swing to far left or right, either way you can lose “buy-in” important to have the right balance.


“A delicate balance between policeman and preacher”


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

  • Praise all stakeholders when they choose to operate in a safe manner; use as examples and encourage the culture.
  • Liaise and solicit engagement from all stakeholders; get them to suggest the outcome or solutions, this way it becomes their idea and “buy – in” is less essential.
  • Rewarding all stakeholders, when we are safe shout out, as it would be if the opposite of the scale when either someone is injured, or near miss, treat the advertising and publication the same, stakeholders need to be told when they are doing something wrong, they also need to be celebrated when it is right.
  • Set the standard, Be a shining example…..okay this does not mean you give up risk and walk around in bubble-wrap, encouraging a standard for all to work against without you falling on your own sword.
  • Keep an eye out for talent; those who show interest in HSE, either from safety champion, H&S rep maybe the next valuable asset in the business…always encourage anyone one who takes interest in safety.
  • Always strive to continuously improve; you don’t need to throw money at all HSE problems and in most cases HSE arena survives on improvement by regurgitating borrowed/ stolen ideas, most are already established with their own success, the key is to see how that solution will fit into your organisation.
  • Be visible – this is such an easy solution on keeping all stakeholders aware that safety is taken seriously; regular toolbox briefings, and visits to all depts. and areas of site is essential.
  • Be fair and open, transparency- “warts and all” – stakeholders should be able to speak with you in this fashion, this way risk is highlighted and incidents are reduced.
  • Last one- which is key. Set achievable KPIs and milestones…you can never state “zero accidents/incidents”.


“Strive to continuously improve”


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

Been able to communicate at all levels, be proactive and deliver with pace. Have an open pragmatic attitude to problems, anyone can reiterate legislation, but you need to find a solution- so been creative would be a key skill especially when funding is not always available.

What is your career plan over the next five years?

Looking for my next challenge, with the future of moving towards consultancy.

Thanks so much Nik for taking the time out to speak to us if anyone has any questions for Nik, pop me a direct email ( )

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