How to draw cartoons book cover

I want to draw cartoons when I grow up

“I want to draw cartoons when I grow up.” That is what I said to my parents probably around age 11. Aged 16 when I realised my drawing ability was limited to the same copy of a comic dog which I could draw without thinking (just the head mind you, no matter how much I tried I could never get the body right). I informed my parents “I am going to run a hotel when I am older”. Aged 18, I am working (yes in a hotel) and applied for universities as many do at that age. I was accepted into them all and I was to be the first person, in my direct and extended family to go to university. Everyone was proud. I of course was earning. Earning real cash. Who wants to go to university when you are working in a hotel and you want to be a hotelier? “I can defer and go next year after I have saved up a bit” I told myself. I didn’t go. I didn’t defer either. I just didn’t go.

Shortly after, on minimum wage at the hotel and with most of my friends off at university, I was bored. Working in a hotel was rubbish. It certainly wasn’t my cup of tea. So, no university and wanting to keep earning money I just took any work I could. “I don’t know what I want to do” I can hear myself thinking. I had no idea on career, trade, a passion for anything. My cartoon dreams were over. I was never going to have a hotel chain. I did know one thing for sure. I never said to myself “I want to work in health and safety.” I actually don’t know many people who actually said those words. Few people have a calling to it. Most people in health and safety tend to have fallen into it somewhat accidentally. That is what happened to me.

Working for an employer at the time I was offered the chance to be put on some health and safety training. There term these days is “do a NEBOSH”. I was always the sort of person that if your employer offers some training, take it. At least it looks good on the CV.  This was maybe 20+ years ago. I thought a health and safety course was a bit like a health and social care course that people took at college. Well it must be it had “health” in the title. How little did I know. I had NO idea about health and safety. I had a knack for what I know now as spotting hazards and evaluating risks but that was it. I had no clue about what NEBOSH was and I just thought the 2-week General Certificate course would be another certificate in my National Records of Achievement Folder (remember them?). So, I started the course. What would the kids say these days “Mind…Blown”?

Before I knew it, the tutor was talking about biological agents, machinery guarding, accident frequency rates, criminal and civil law, human error and zoonoses (what the heck is a zoonose?). I must say the tutor was great. I always remember him rocking up on a motorbike and I thought that was a bit too cool for a health and safety person. Two weeks flew by. A couple of exams and a written report later and I had my general certificate. Unbelievably, I was hooked. In fact, I was so hooked that once I got my results, I went to my then employer and asked to do the NEBOSH Diploma. I wasn’t in a health and safety role. I wasn’t being developed to fill a health and safety role. I just thought the subject matter was fascinating. It was the first time that I came across a vocation which I felt covered several different subjects and that applied to nearly every organisation in the country (maybe not zoonoses).

That was the start of my health and safety career. After my general, I got a job in health and safety. My first career-type job. It was great. I was putting into practice all the different elements I had learned. It didn’t stop there though. I continued with all my learning in health and safety from NEBOSH Diploma and NVQ and became a Chartered Member of IOSH. All the while I had moved jobs into different industries, different hazards, controls, people, cultures. Learning from them all as I go. Learning from lots of wonderful people along the way.

I eventually got to university too and completed my MSc in health and safety management. And I am still learning.

Here are a few things I have learned over the last 20 years.

The first? Health and safety cannot be classed as something independent in an organisation. If you want to have success it needs to be just a regular part of operations in the business. It is not a bolt-on to everyday work. Health and safety IS everyday work. It is a matter of how well planned the work is. How well informed are the people doing the work. Whether the correct equipment is available and can be used. Whether there is even enough time to complete the task safely. Yes, it is about completing tasks, manufacturing products, constructing buildings, deliveries, and logistics. Typically, organisations do not make safety. They are there to make a product or offer a service, make profit, and want to do this safely. So, safety needs to add value.

Secondly, there is a lot of emphasis on safety culture. Organisations need a safety culture. Over my time, I have come to learn that there is no such thing as a safety culture. Companies just have a singular culture. It is an organisational culture. Not a quality culture or a productivity culture, it is just a culture. It might not be the one you want and so it is important to think about striking the balance between productivity, quality, and safety and how those people interact to create that culture.

Lastly, despite many doodles and drawings I still can’t draw anything more than a cartoon dog, and only from the neck up!

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