Claire Hornby: How I Became a QHSE Manager in Rail

How I became a QHSE manager in rail

In our efforts to continuously champion diversity in the rail sector, we have been talking to the women that play their part in one of the fastest growing rail networks in the world. ATA Recruitment understands the importance of women in rail and celebrates those spearheading the effort. If you’re aspiring to work in rail and want to know more about what it’s really like, this blog is for you!

Engineering is a huge discipline in the rail sector, but there are a number of other areas that you can go into. Claire Hornby is the QHSE Manager at Keolis Nottingham Tram Network, and she sat down with us to discuss how she got into rail, what she does and her advice for those considering a job in rail.

Claire began her working career in finance, working as a Junior Accounts Clerk from the age of 17 and eventually being promoted to a Credit Control Supervisor. After having her first child, she returned to work to find her role had changed and began looking for something new. We asked Claire about her career development within rail and how it all began.

How did you get into the sector? What was your first job in rail?

I saw a job advertised to work as an Administrator in rail plant. I didn’t know the first thing about rail at this point, but I had a lot of administration experience. A number of machines were returning from Hong Kong and I was in charge of dealing with the admin involved. I was unfortunately made redundant from this role, but it was my first taste of working within the rail environment.

How did you progress into a QHSE Manager with Keolis?

“I went on to work on a hire desk, hiring out plant machines and equipment, at this point, I had no qualifications other than my GCSE’s. As the civil sector was slowing down at the time, I eventually spent most of my time on the rail side and eventually ended up looking after a pool of 30 drivers. I went on to do a Level 3 NVQ in Occupational Health Safety in June 2004 and moved into the SHEQ team with my employer at the time.

Now with my NVQ and a number of audits under my belt, I got my Lead Auditors Qualification for Quality Management. Following this, I began to realise that there wasn’t going to be many opportunities for me to progress where I was and so I started looking for something new which is when I was contacted by ATA Recruitment about the job with Keolis, which is the company that operates Nottingham’s tram network. I joined in January 2019 as their QHSE Manager and I’m currently working on the transition to a new ISO standard and conducting internal audits.

How have you found working in a traditionally male-dominated environment?

When I used to work in plant, I don’t think I came across one female operative in my entire time with the business, it was extremely male-dominated, and it was quite difficult to be a woman in that environment. However, times have changed and with more women coming through it’s going to mean the rail sector is much more diversified. At Keolis, there’s a great mix of both genders and that’s clear in the hierarchy as we have a number of women in the management team – it’s something that the business really encourages.

What do you think would help to encourage more women into rail?

I think businesses as a whole should make more effort to attend college events or events for those about to leave school. Going to these places or maybe even having open days at their business would educate young people on what it’s like to work in the rail sector just as they are deciding what they want to do in the future.

I’m not sure what the perception of the rail sector is to the younger generation, but I’m sure some may think it’s maybe a dirty environment and maybe girls and women might find it intimidating when it’s really not! The rail sector is a nice place to be and work, and we should be making that more visible to the next generation of rail workers.

What would your advice be to somebody considering a job in rail?

It might sound like a cliché answer, but just go for it! I had my doubts and worried and I really wish I’d done it sooner. There are so many roles in rail, it’s not just being a driver or an engineer, you can also be part of the infrastructure that makes everything work. Make sure you do your research so that you know exactly what’s involved in your chosen career path but working in rail is something I would absolutely recommend.

Jobs in Rail

ATA Recruitment has been recruiting in the rail industry for over 50 years. We have plenty of rail jobs available with some of the biggest businesses throughout the UK across engineering, maintenance, health and safety and service roles including Train Managers and Train Cleaners. Click below to view our jobs in rail.

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