An Occupational Health Nurse: Leading the Grid in Motorsport
20 June 2019 | Su Chantry, Queen’s Nurse
Su Chantry, Queen’s Nurse and specialist occupational health performance health manager at Williams Grand Prix Engineering Ltd invited Sue Boran, QNI Director of Nursing Programmes to spend a day observing occupational health nursing at Williams Headquarters in Grove, Oxfordshire.
Occupational Health is about the effect of health on work and work on health. An Occupational Health Nurse is an autonomous specialist community public health role with a focus on the management of workplace health risk and wellbeing.
An Occupational Health Nurse (OHN) is not only concerned with the individual employee; they must have an awareness of the organisation workforce demographic, work tasks risks to health, and work in collaboration with the employer. The OHN is an independent objective specialist, assessing and advising on what appears best for both employee and employer in relation to a person’s health and their work.
While a company is not responsible for the general health of its employees, it does have a moral as well as legal responsibility for the occupational health of its employees. In practice this means ensuring that they are not made ill by their work, and that they are as far as can be ascertained medically fit for their job. This is supported by the concept of the ‘duty of care’ in the employment relationship.
My Role at Williams
I have been the Occupational Health performance manager at Williams Grand Prix Holdings PLC for the last 2 ½ years, this is the holding company of the Williams group of companies which includes Williams Grand Prix Engineering Limited. Williams Grand Prix Engineering Limited’s core competencies are the design and development of racing cars to compete in the Formula One World Championship.
I am employed directly by Williams and have been pivotal in setting up an established in-house Occupational Health department. Being directly employed by Williams has been a positive experience, as it has enabled me to work autonomously with individual departments to identify what specific health needs there are and how they can be managed.
Occupational Health has a key part to play in community health leadership; it helps organisations understand the health needs of the working population. I have been working closely with Williams senior managers and have developed a targeted health and wellbeing strategy that is focussed on supporting the unique elements that can pose challenges to employee’s physical and mental health in the high performance motorsport business.
An Occupational Health Nurse has to not only have a good knowledge of health management, they must also have clear understanding of employment legislation and good foundation knowledge of Health and Safety Law and the legal elements of the health risks posed by work. Working with senior HR managers to develop health policies, including work stress management, is a key element of my role.
Sue Boran spent time in the factory and saw production of the racing cars firsthand. I was able to show her how my occupational health role included working collaboratively with managers by assessing, controlling and monitoring health risks inherent in the variety of manufacturing areas of the factory. At Williams there are over 800 staff members who require health surveillance annually to ensure that compliance with regulatory work exposure risks is monitored and reported on.
I introduced Sue to some of our race team members. There are over 100 Formula 1 personnel travelling to 21 races per year, and our Formula E team travel to 13 races per year. All require annual travel health assessments and vaccinations and my role as occupational health performance manager includes assessing the race team’s fitness for work, advising the race team management on the impact of health and the physical and the mental capacity of an individual’s fitness for their roles in the team. I have the privilege of travelling to races to undertake health assessments and undertake wellbeing activities at the trackside. ‘Movember’, the male health campaign, was such an exciting activity to deliver when we did it in Mexico!
Formula 1 mechanics are selected for the prestigious role of pit crew based on physical ability and performance; this role is secondary to their primary employed role as race mechanics. Occupational Health works in partnership with race team managers to advise on the health of the crew. Pit crew members undertake over 1900 pit stops a year, including numerous practices and the risk of repetitive work-related injuries is high. Sue met one of our mechanics in clinic who reported some wrist issues related to his role in the pit stop. Four races into the season and he has suffered from some impact injuries that will need proactive Occupational Health physiotherapy and possible work role adjustments. My role in Occupational Health requires me to understand the nature of the work staff members undertake and observing work tasks first hand is key to my proactive occupational health approach.
Williams is a 24 hour a day, 365 days a year manufacturing factory. A key element to my role is ensuring health and wellbeing is delivered to all the staff working the variety of shifts in a multitude of contexts, some of which are very stressful. Occupational Health promotes good evidence-based information, advising on common health conditions, helping individuals make healthy lifestyle choices and building resilience. We use many community resources to support our wellbeing model, including Oxfordshire prostate cancer support group, Remploy mental health support service and local GP/NHS services, to name a few.
As an Occupational Health Nurse in the motorsport industry of engineering, production, an understanding of marketing in a commercial context is helpful. I was able to show Sue how a synergic partnership with a gym equipment provider has enabled us to establish a high quality, pioneering gym facility for all our staff to use free of charge, which can support their health at work. I have had to develop a keen business outlook. In today’s economic climate, Occupational Health has to bring added value to a business. Through some proactive work with IT, HR, health and safety and facility management, Occupational Health has been able to secure Williams ‘disability confident employer’ status.
On my first day at Williams, I met Sir Frank Williams who called me over to ask who I was. I introduced myself as the new Occupational Health Nurse and a Queen’s Nurse. He thanked me for coming along to look after his team and asked if I would come back. I said, ‘It is my pleasure to come back, Sir Frank.’ As a Queen’s Nurse I am committed to high standards of practice and Claire Williams (deputy team principal) can be confident that I am at the front of the F1 and FE grids, delivering innovation in Occupational Health Nursing and best practice to their teams.
Su Chantry, Queen’s Nurse
Williams is one of the world’s leading Formula One teams, the company has secured 16 FIA Formula One World Championship titles since its foundation in 1977. Nine of these titles have been won in the Constructors’ Championship in association with Cosworth, Honda and Renault. The remaining seven titles were won in the Drivers’ Championship with Alan Jones, Keke Rosberg, Nelson Piquet, Nigel Mansell, Alain Prost, Damon Hill and Jacques Villeneuve.
The Williams name has been synonymous with motorsport since the 1960s.
Disability Confident employers: www.gov.uk/government/collections/disability-confident-campaign