We are delighted to welcome health and safety consultant Michiel Hanenbergh to our team. Michiel will work as a senior consultant within the Environment, Health and Safety area of expertise at Philips Innovation Services – and he shares our passion for protecting people at work. In this interview, Michiel tells us more about this passion and outlines his aims working for Philips Innovation Services.
What inspired you to choose a career in health and safety?
“I want to help organizations protect their most valuable assets: their people. I believe that people are the most important factor in making a company successful. Having witnessed some serious accidents with heavy machinery, I was motivated to professionalize my interest in this field of expertise.”
Where have you worked prior to joining Philips Innovation Services?
“I have worked in a wide range of sectors – from manufacturing to process industries, food, pharmaceuticals and infrastructure. During that time, I’ve worked with dangerous substances, heavy machinery, biological agents, traffic, human behavior, children and people with disabilities.
I’ve learned a lot from all these experiences. Above all, I’ve learned that no matter where you work, managing health and safety risks in the workplace is a question of professionalism. After all, every professional organization must care for its valuable assets. However, this can be a challenge in practice – with behaviors, technology and organizational structures often colliding with one another.”
How would you describe yourself as a health and safety consultant?
“From a professional perspective, there are three things I believe are important. First, you must listen to the people exposed to occupational risks. My role involves finding hazards, assessing the associated risks, and defining suitable countermeasures. I can only achieve these goals by working with those who deal with these hazards on a daily basis.
Second, I pay specific attention to legal considerations. In my opinion, compliance and professionalism go hand-in-hand. It is extremely important to know the health and safety laws and regulations, and my advice is always regulatory-based. This helps to substantiate what can and cannot be done. The law protects us as a collective and as individuals – and is therefore in everyone’s interest. For example, while there are economic aspects to designing equipment in accordance with standards, there is a clear safety component too. Both aspects should be covered through compliance with standards such as the Machinery Directive.
Third, I always strive to find meaningful and appropriate solutions to safety challenges, based on sensible choices. The measures we implement should be proportional to the risks, but of the required standard as well. Hazard control is necessary throughout the entire chain, so solutions should be acceptable on the shop floor as well for the management.
Furthermore, the field of health and safety is extensive, and collaboration is needed. Particularly in the field of occupational hygiene and health, I like to cooperate with other professionals to achieve comprehensive solutions to health and safety challenges.”
Last question: which challenges do you like to tackle?
“For me, accident investigation is an important part of my work. When it is not possible to control the risks, learning from what went wrong is the least we can do. Research into the root cause of accidents is one of the most difficult parts of the profession, because emotion is often involved. It is so much harder to find the basic factors that lead to accidents than it is to blame the victim. My goal is to get better at this, with every accident that occurs.”
Health and safety risks – example 1
A temp worker amputated the top of her little finger while using an automated sampling machine. You could ask: “Why did she put her finger in that hole? Didn’t she know that was dangerous?” – but asking this question doesn’t help us to learn from the incident. Human error plays a part in so many accidents, but still these accidents occur. So, it is better to ask: “What was the purpose of putting her finger into the hole, and why is it possible to get hurt doing this?”
Taking a step back, external safety is another challenge. I am particularly interested in activities that can affect the surroundings after loss of containment. I also like to explore the concept of prevention by calculation, not by emotion.
Health and safety risks – example 2
Two large storage tanks, one containing hydrogen peroxide and the other caustic soda, were topped up by a contractor on a bi-weekly basis (caustic soda one week, peroxide the next week). After more than thirty years without any incident, caustic soda was pumped into the tank filled with hydrogen peroxide. This almost triggered a run-away reaction, generating large amounts of heat and vapor. These kinds of scenarios are assessed for external safety.
In addition, I am very interested in exploring the subject of product safety – for occupational use and for trade. I have worked in this field for many years, but I am still driven by the challenge of deepening my expertise in this area.
Health and safety risks – example 3
The sampling machine in the first example was brought to market in a non-compliant state, as it did not meet the requirements of the Machinery Directive. Here, the task is to ensure these products are removed from the market, with manufacturers being sued if necessary to make sure this happens. This is all part of the job.
Health and Safety Consultant
Philips Innovation Services
Read more about our Health and Safety Risk Assessment, one of our services from the Environment, Health & Safety key area of expertise.