My career: John Murray
John Murray reveals how a working with a small firm for his dissertation helped him to become an environment adviser at Balfour Beatty
Why did you become an environment professional?
I always wanted to work in an industrial role using the practical compliance side of environmental legislation. I wanted to support companies to take an interest in environmental issues and see the positive side of doing so, instead of it just being a box-ticking exercise.
What was your first environment job?
Technically my first role was at Balfour Beatty Engineering Services (BBES) as a graduate trainee, although for my dissertation I worked with a small firm in Scotland to determine the benefits of implementing an environment management system (EMS).
How did you get your first environment role?
For my dissertation I contacted a number of businesses asking if I could come in and investigate the benefits of an EMS for them, but you would be surprised by how reluctant some organisations were to take up free support! In the end I found one company that was willing to allow me in and my experience with working with them helped me to secure my job at BBES.
How did you progress your environment career?
Once I got the job with BBES I undertook several safety and environment courses such as the CCNSG Safety Passport and an internal EMS auditors course. I also sat the open book assessment to gain my Associate status with IEMA and to help me move towards gaining full membership further down the line.
What does your current role involve?
My work is extremely varied. I am responsible for producing environmental awareness materials such as toolbox talks and environmental alerts, conducting environment site inspections and audits on more than 200 sites as well as training staff in environmental matters. I also maintain the EMS and support work-winning teams by providing information on environmental issues.
How has your role developed?
I have definitely become more independent in my role. Where previously my manager would identify sites to visit and environmental issues to communicate, I am now developing my own audit schedule and contacts in the business. People now come to me instinctively as a first port of call on environmental issues.
What’s the best part of your work?
The variety of work I am involved in. One day I am looking at waste disposal on an inner-city hospital site, discussing how they should dispose of hazardous waste, and then the next I am on an electrical substation suggesting silt defences in the event of flooding.
What’s the hardest part of your job?
I would say incident investigation, as you are often faced with having to ask difficult questions to understand why the incident occurred in order to prevent a reoccurrence.
What was the last development/ training course/event you attended?
It was an internal Balfour Beatty training course on project and contract management.
What did you bring back to your job?
The course allowed me to better understand the pressures that each individual project team faces and I am now taking this into account when arranging site inspections and audits.
What is/are the most important skill(s) for your role, and why?
The ability to think outside the box to solve problems. Environmental issues are always changing and problems are frequently unique. You need to be able to come up with workable solutions quickly and be able to communicate your ideas effectively and confidently to people working on-site.
Where do you see the environment profession going?
I think it will become more intertwined with sustainability. Although sustainability encompasses all work types, environment professionals will be seen to lead the way. In the construction industry I think it will take on a more independent role where traditionally it has been an add-on to health and safety.
Where would you like to be in five years’ time?
At the moment I am happy where I am – BBES is going through some exciting changes in regard to environment and sustainability and I would like to be at the forefront of its development.
What advice would you give to someone considering going into the environment profession?
Keep up with new legislation and regulations, and get some experience when you are studying. Nothing beats having experience when applying for jobs and going to interviews.
BSc natural resources management, AIEMA, IOSH managing safely, internal environmental management systems auditor
May 2011 to now:
Environment adviser, Balfour Beatty Engineering Services
Graduate trainee, Balfour Beatty Engineering Services
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