In conversation with… Jenny Barnett

We speak to Jenny Barnett, F. Ball’s SHEQ manager, about her achievements a year after taking the role, her passion for sustainability and why her work is never finished.

With 16 years’ experience in the adhesives industry, including 12 years working in HS&E management, Jenny joined F. Ball as SHEQ manager a year ago.

SHEQ is short for safety, health, environment and quality assurance. This makes for quite a long job title, and you may be forgiven for thinking that it seems to encompass some fairly diverse areas of responsibility. Indeed, Jenny explains that the scope of the role is fairly broad. This begs the question: what do all these areas have in common?

“A large part of my role is ensuring compliance with international standards, and while each area is covered by a different international standard – ISO 45001 is the global health and safety standard, ISO 14001 deals with environmental management and ISO 9001 covers quality – there’s considerable synergy between each one. For example, each standard requires companies to take legislative requirements, organisational context and performance evaluation into consideration when designing their systems. Continuous improvement and a ‘plan, do, check, act’ approach are also unifying themes,” says Jenny.

Globally recognised

Why is ISO accreditation so important to F. Ball?

“First and foremost, it’s about ensuring the health and safety of F. Ball employees and everyone who interacts with our business, protecting the environment and making sure that our products are of a consistently high quality. Also, it’s increasingly important as F. Ball seeks to expand into new global markets. It’s a good way of demonstrating your management standards comply to high standards, and a badge people look for and expect industry-leading companies to have.”


At the start of the year, Jenny also took training under her wing, becoming responsible for F. Ball’s internal training programme and making sure that the development needs of everyone at the company are provided for.

“This is because of the relationship between training and compliance with health and safety and quality standards,” explains Jenny. “My remit also extends to engaging with schools and colleges to make them aware of the career opportunities that lie open in manufacturing, including via apprenticeships.”

Legal matters

Jenny says that the amount of environmental and health and safety legislation, as well as laws governing packaging and quality, together with the fact that compliance is a large part of adhering to the standards, means that keeping on top of legal developments takes up quite a bit of her time. So how does she do this?

“We have software that monitors both new legislation and legislation at consultation stage. I am also Chair of the Environment and Sustainability Working Group for the British Adhesives and Sealants Association [BASA], and I sit on several other technical working groups, including BASA’s Health and Safety and Hazardous Products working groups. Together with membership of other trade associations and consulting government sources, such as HSE newsletters, this gives me advanced knowledge of legislation before it becomes law.”

Key achievements

What have been your main achievements in your first year as SHEQ manager at F. Ball?

“The migration from BS OHSAS 18001, the British standard for the management of occupational health and safety, to ISO 45001, the new global standard for which we achieved certification earlier this year, was a major achievement.

“This has involved other measures that have been achievements in their own right, including building a culture of consultation and empowerment to involve employees in the development of policy and procedures. I wouldn’t like to take credit for that though; everyone in the company has a role in taking ownership of their own health and safety commitments.

“In terms of environmental initiatives, I’m really pleased that we were able to work with Recofloor, the vinyl takeback scheme, to become the first manufacturer of subfloor preparation products and adhesives to provide a means for recycling its plastic packaging, including our recently-introduced recyclable plastic bottles.”

Key goals

We ask Jenny what she most enjoys about her role.

“Well, it might not be everybody’s cup of tea, but I really enjoy getting to grips with legislation, keeping on top of developments and breaking it down into easily understandable information so that everyone has the information they need to realise positive change.

“I also have a passion for sustainability and manufacturing, and my role gives me an outlet for sharing this enthusiasm and making a real difference. Membership of technical steering committees also provides an opportunity to have a say in how new legislation is formed.”

And what do you see as your immediate objectives?

“Continual improvement. We see the international standards are an absolute minimum. At the same time, they require us to meet ever-higher targets. So, in terms of sustainability, we are looking at ways to reduce waste, as well as increasing the proportion of the energy that comes from renewables, including generating solar powered electricity on-site. We will continue to engage with employees and empower them to be safe at work.”


And what about future challenges?

“The pace of legislative change, particularly around sustainability, will continue to quicken. However, I’m a very positive person, and I see this as a challenge to be met positively. Inevitably, more legislation will be introduced in the coming years compelling companies to be more sustainable. A business that does more than is strictly required of it now will be better prepared for the future.”

Jenny adds that the best thing to do to keep on top of these developments is to do the right thing.

“We should want to protect our employees and the environment and make great products. At the same time, there’s a legal, moral and business case for doing so,” she says.

Life outside of work

Jenny is married with an 11-year-old son and a labradoodle. Originally hailing from Leek, Staffordshire, she now lives a short distance away in Stoke-on-Trent. But what does she like to do when she’s not at work?

“I lead a very active life. As a family, we love the outdoors and going caravanning, particularly in Wales. I also enjoy arts, crafts and music, and I’ve just taken up hiking.”