Recognition, respect and the world’s your oyster

Paul Wheeler chose to work in Health and safety because of the variety of work. It has not let me down, in over 20 years I have experienced working in sewers, climbed telecom towers, flown across the world and sailed the seas all to help look after employees.

I hold the NEBOSH Diploma, which I passed in 1982 and was probably one of your youngest students at the time.  Part of my career development was to eventually gain NEBOSH qualifications for the position I held which at the time was a Trainee Safety Officer.  I think the start of the NEBOSH qualification brought about a change in the Safety profession, it brought a means of recognition of the knowledge and skills that you had learned and so it brought more respect to the profession and in turn attracted younger people. 

Having the Diploma opened many doors for promotions and it brought respect that I had attained a recognised level of knowledge and skills for my role.  I have been a professional member of IOSH for 20 years and a Professional Member of American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE).

I am now the Director Fleet Safety (Occupational Safety) for Princess Cruises.  We own 17 cruise ships and employ roughly 25,000 crew members.  We sail from the temples of the Far East to the glaciers of the Alaskan North, from the great cities of Europe to the grand landscapes of Australia.

I find the main challenges in my work are that our business runs 24 hours a day in more than one continent at the same time.  It really means that my email in box always has messages to be read at any time of the day! 

My main responsibilities are to direct a team of safety professionals providing an advisory support service to senior management and to design and implement safety initiatives with a goal of reducing shipboard accidents and incidents.  Interestingly there are few Occupational Safety Regulations which apply to international shipping so we tend to apply UK Standards and Regulations as best practice.

Working with a workforce made up of over 50 Nationalities also brings its challenges.  For some first time crew members ‘safety’ is totally new concept – so we take extra care of them by conducting safety training before they fully take up their role and we assign them a ‘buddy’ to look after them for the first few weeks.

It was always my dream to move to the USA and so when a transfer became a possibility I jumped at the opportunity. 

I feel I can make a real difference to improving the safety culture within the Cruise Industry and Princess Cruises are very supportive in achieving that goal too.  So for the time being I have an important job to finish.  But in the long term I see a move to Australia coming, my wife is Australian and we often talk about finishing my career down under.

Picture of Paul Wheeler
Paul Wheeler