Problem-solving, know-how and dangerous pursuits

He's won an argument with one of the BBC's toughest interviewers, been beaten by a Frenchman at conkers, rioted against the police and escaped from a sunken helicopter.

But when you ask Ray Hurst why he's done these things, he gives the same answer. To solve problems.

Ray loves solving problems. In fact, a problem he faced many years ago got him into health and safety in the first place. He'd grown tired of having to travel across London to work. He was in administration at the time. When a job in health and safety came up nearer to home, he went for it, and he got it.

That was in the 1970s. Ray enjoyed his work. He says it gave him the chance to tackle problems everyday. He was eager to learn more.

So when NEBOSH arrived on the scene in 1979, Ray was one of the first people to sit the exams. He gained what was then the ordinary and higher NEBOSH qualifications.

He says his studies awakened new ideas and ways of tackling health and safety at the County Council where he worked. For example, he once used what he'd learned about the impact of colours on mood to tackle a behavioural problem. Ray says he wouldn't have known anything about using the 'Munsell' colour system if it hadn't been for his NEBOSH studies. Apparently it worked too.

One problem Ray has been campaigning to solve more recently is people's perception of health and safety. He's concerned that it's often seen as something which stops people from doing things. As a problem-solver, this frustrates him. He believes health and safety is about helping people do things - safely.

As President of IOSH he and Neil Budworth took on Radio 4's John Humphreys about this. Following a heated debate, Humphreys conceded on-air that Ray was: "Destroying the image that has been lovingly nurtured over the years of you heath and safety types being killjoys."

He took part in the IOSH sponsored World Conkers Championship for the same reason. To dispel myths.

As for rioting? Here, he was involved in an exercise to test emergency response in the South East. Likewise, his escape from a helicopter was all about testing safety procedures.

Ray's right. Health and safety is all about doing things.

Ray Hurst