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When A Young Chap Becomes A Fellow

ems dec 17 25When A Young Chap Becomes A Fellow

When a world leading engineering institution recently announced the appointment of one of its youngest ever Fellows, it is unlikely anyone across the industry would have expected it to be a health and safety inspector. (Read More)

However, the impressive accolade, bestowed upon 35-year-old Richard Hines, actually honours a long tradition of the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) producing Fellows of the Institute of Engineering and Technology (IET).

From humble beginnings as an apprentice electrical technician, Richard has quickly moved up the ranks to his current position as Principal Specialist Inspector for Britain’s national workplace health and safety regulator – no mean feat in a career not yet even spanning two decades. But Richard openly credits this achievement to his day job, saying he has drawn entirely on it to meet the gruelling selection criteria of the Fellowship.

“A lot of the work I have been involved with has been reactive, giving evidence in court, contributing to professional standards, as well as speaking at a number of industry events,” said Richard. “The Fellowship is really testament to the support I’ve had from HSE throughout my career.”

Richard’s rapid career rise, goes someway to proving the old adage ‘if you’re good enough, you’re old enough.’  

He explains: “The Fellowship was always something I’d aspired to but never actually thought I would achieve. I initially thought I was probably too young. Ultimately though, it’s not about age, it’s about the examples you present to the panel.

“If you meet the standard, and you can demonstrate that, then why should your age present a barrier?” asked Richard. “This achievement confirms I am working at the top of the profession at this age – so why can’t others?”

Richard politely dismisses suggestions that he is now held in the same esteem as those old enough to be his parents, talking only of his respect for his fellow IET alumni.

“It makes me feel really proud to have reached that level this early on, and to stand amongst those so highly-respected in their fields. It’s humbling.”

An expert in electrical and control system engineering, Richard provides front line support to his regulatory colleagues operating across a wide range of sectors including construction, utilities, agriculture and general manufacturing.  

He believes HSE valuing professional body recognition helps it regulate better. “For an organisation to have industry-recognised fellows in it shows it has people working at the highest level. We’re proving to the public that we both have the expertise and the resources to tackle the most serious incidents and injuries in engineering.”

It also ensures that HSE has a credible voice when its tries to regulate differently, he argues: “The regulator will always have a role in trying to answer very difficult questions when something goes wrong and to understand technically what happened. It is up to us, as the regulator, to make sure those things don’t happen again, and ultimately to hold people to account. But I think there is also a big part in our role to encourage industry to be forward-thinking with those that have control and influence. We must be at the forefront of continually driving the whole health and safety regime forward.”

Richard’s work is also underpinned by globally recognised scientific expertise. “My role covers probably the broadest range of electrical and control systems engineering issues you will find anywhere in the world,” he explains. “We deal with the reactive issues, where people have been tragically killed or seriously injured, and build an understanding of exactly how or why this has happened.  Not only do we drive national standards, but we also work on emerging technologies; the things that are not necessarily present today but could be in the future.”

Richard notes with interest his age means he will be still be working when these innovations bear tangible outcomes. “We think about some of the developments in power distributions, renewables and energy storage and the things that are perceived as tomorrow’s challenge.

“Everything is moving at such a rapid pace that it’s exciting to think that I will still be in post and very much working on those things when they finally come to fruition.”

But the most important thing for Richard is HSE’s clear role and function in ensuring people go home safely at the end of the day – “while many focus on streamlining processes to make them more efficient, our overall objective is always to put people first. We are here to ensure everyone can go home healthy from their place of work – the safety of people is key.”