1. Tell us about a day in the life of a Health and Safety lawyer.
The one thing that is guaranteed is that no two days are ever the same, and you never know what the day will bring. Just when you think "today looks pretty quiet" – that's inevitably when the phone rings.
The variety is one of my favourite things about working in Health and Safety. A day might involve being in court for a sentencing hearing or Fatal Accident Inquiry, consulting with clients and counsel, supporting employees in Police or HSE interviews, taking witness statements, providing emergency incident support, or heading out on a site visit.
Health and Safety covers a diverse range of subjects. In the last couple of weeks alone I have advised on a road traffic accident involving farm vehicles, the use of private ambulance services, the health and safety implications of legislation on rights of way from 1845 and asbestos exposure on an offshore platform. It certainly never gets boring.
2. Why did you decide to become a Health and Safety lawyer?
I have been involved in Health and Safety work throughout my career, but it was when I came back to Aberdeen in 2007 that it became a key part of my practice. Health and Safety is important everywhere, of course, but it has particular significance in the North-East because of the role of the offshore sector in leading the development of Health and Safety good practice since the 1980s. Health and Safety is a very sophisticated sector up here in Aberdeen, and I wanted to be part of that. I don’t regret it; I have been involved with some fascinating cases and worked with some great people in relation to incidents both on and offshore.
3. What three things can't you live without to do your job?
A great team. When a client has a major incident, we must drop everything and give them whatever support they need – which could be anything from advice to the board, assisting with document requests from the investigating agencies or accompanying staff during witness interviews. You can’t do that without a great team. One of the main reasons that I joined Brodies is the strength in depth of our Health and Safety team. We have expert Health and Safety lawyers who can be on hand to support our clients quickly, anywhere in Scotland.
A warm and waterproof jacket. I love living and working in the North-East, but the weather isn’t really ideal for site visits. More often that not, site visits are in a yard, a warehouse, the countryside or, once, in a tractor in a flooded field – keeping warm and dry is essential. Which leads me on to item 3…
Coffee. Major incidents often involve long days, and site visits are often chilly, so I can’t survive without a steady supply of strong coffee. Mind you, I can’t survive short, indoor days without coffee either!