Determination, pride and certainly not hopeless

When Dave Saunders left school in 1960 his teacher told him he was "hopeless" and would never amount to anything.

However, it didn't take him long to find work. He got a job labouring on a building site and then picked up different trades along the way. But Dave couldn't forget what his teacher had said.

A few years later he was digging drains. He heard a voice from 12 feet above ask: "What you doing down there Dave?" It was an old school mate, who was on site training to be a building inspector. Dave thought to himself: "I should be up there looking down into this hole, not down here digging it."

He was determined to find better work and later, as a Clerk of Works for the Inner London Education Authority (ILEA), he was given the chance to join their safety team. They'd been impressed with his approach to scaffolding work.

Health and safety suited him. Everything he'd learned in construction applied. But in 1990 the ILEA was abolished. Dave had to move on. He found work as a Safety Officer with a scaffolding firm.

His new employers had just applied for quality management standard BS 5750 (now ISO 9000). They were visited by British Standards. During the visit, Dave was asked: "Who says you're a Safety Officer?"

Although Dave had been given the title, and had years of experience in construction, he was told he needed a piece of paper that qualified him for the position.

He decided to get qualified and quickly gained his NEBOSH Certificate and other qualifications before becoming a Chartered Member of IOSH.

Dave says it took him until his 40s to realise he wasn't "hopeless" after all. It was getting his qualifications that finally convinced him.

On-site, construction workers now know him as 'Safety Dave'. He likes the nickname, seeing it as a mark of appreciation for keeping people safe in a notoriously dangerous industry. Ironically, Dave's not just a safety adviser, but he's a teacher as well now. He runs all of his current employer’s in-house safety courses. 

His achievements are all around him. He's worked on many significant landmarks - the Albert Memorial, the Houses of Parliament, the Canary Wharf Tower, the Docklands Light Railway and Wembley Stadium. Now, as he approaches retirement, he's working at the Olympic Village. Quite a legacy.

In fact, he's built a lot. But it's the career he's built that's his proudest achievement. Who said he wouldn't amount to anything?

Dave Saunders