Ellen Barrett

Ellen Barrett is a SHES Manager and the longest serving woman working at Murphy. We caught up with her to find out how she first became interested in SHES, argued with 450 men (and won) and her ducks and geese.

What was your first role at Murphy?

Plant and Transport admin assistant at the Dinnington Depot, North East region.

How did you get into the role of SHES Advisor?

Following my stint with the Plant and Transport Deportment, in 1993 I went to work with pipelines as a site based timekeeper.  This was quite an eye opener to a 20 year old who had never worked away from home or been out of my comfort zone.  I soon learnt that there were some very hot tempered individuals and if I planned to survive my time and enjoy it then I would need to develop a thicker skin.  This was achieved by siting in the payroll office on a Thursday morning after the wages had been handed out (most were paid in cash then) knowing that throughout the day around 450 men would be storming through the door to argue the toss about their wages.  It definitely wasn’t a job for a shrinking violet, but I adapted and survived!  From there I moved to the TV cable installation projects in Halifax and Sheffield working as a timekeeper and office manager.  Once again not a job for the faint hearted.  

When these projects ended I returned to the Dinnington office to close out and archive the project documentation.  While there I met Graham Calendar who was the Health, Safety and Environmental Manager for the region at the time, this would have been around 1999.  Over a cup of tea and a packet of biscuits we spoke about what I planned to do next and he mentioned that he was looking for someone to join his team of one and would I be interested in a challenge.  I joined Graham and never looked back!

What do you enjoy about your role?

The versatility of the role, during the last 20 something years.  All projects have different challenges, from general site conditions and welfare to building a ship to shore gas terminal into the River Tees.  I have worked in a wide variety of sectors during my time with Murphy and have met some amazing people who I have learned a lot from. 

What do you think are the key trends in health, safety and wellbeing across the industry?

Continuation with the focus on wellbeing and general good health.  The information that is available to us now is really helpful in giving an understanding of what changes to look for in your team mate or members of your own family.   In addition to that, the industry are putting work into the use of app’s to reduce the volume of site based paperwork and repetition of signatures on multiple forms.  This should also aid in reduction of work for site teams i.e.  online inductions being completed before arrival or online review and acceptance of RAMS.  The use of 360 degree cameras and sensors on equipment and PPE should remove almost all incidents between plant and people.

What advice do you have for someone considering a role in SHES?

It may sound obvious but make sure that you are interested in the topic.  Speak to people who are already in the role and find out what it entails.  Other than that - never stop listening to the people you work with and never stop learning from them.   

There can be a perception that construction is a dangerous sector. Has this been your experience?  

Construction, like most things can be dangerous when not undertaken and managed correctly.  It’s my experience that if procedures are followed and you look after your work mates, the chance of an incident is significantly reduced. 

Tell us an interesting fact about yourself…

I’m second generation Murphy and also have family working here.  My family and I have a small holding with geese, ducks, chickens and horses and there is nothing more levelling than shovelling poo when mucking out animal houses!

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