A new island business brings a vision of safer workplaces to companies large and small across the Western Isles.
And it’s been started by a man with a wider world vision, and more experience of making work lives safe, than most people would ever gain.
Vision Safety was founded by Montrose man Steve Butler, who’s arrived with his wife Fidan to settle in North Tolsta. Currently working from home, Steve’s on the road a lot of the time to visit client premises, while Fidan helps with administration and is training in accountancy.
The route from Steve’s original home in Montrose to Lewis is not that complex – unless you travel it by way of Azerbaijan and Singapore, as he has.
After serving with the armed forces, he started his working life in Montrose’s specialist fire and emergency training centre, but in 1999 he spotted a contract opportunity and struck out on his own, heading for the oil and gas industry in Azerbaijan.
From then, Steve worked overseas – his wife is from Azerbaijan - and he has also worked in South East Asia, Singapore and other locations.
While he was in Singapore family needs called him back home to Montrose. He took a year off to support his family and then seized a new opportunity, one that brought him to Lewis.
He explained: “I was off work and I got this call from a friend who was cycling the Hebridean Way and had made it to Stornoway, but was struggling to get to a train that he needed to catch to Inverness.
“I thought ‘why not?’ and headed over to help him out. It was while we were having a coffee in Stornoway that I picked up a copy of Events newspaper and spotted an ad for a health and safety job in the construction trade in Stornoway.
“I thought ‘that’s a job for me’ and applied to work in the construction trade. I moved over here, fell in love with the place and the people and now I’m here for good.
“There’s a gap in the market in health and safety here and my experience over the years enables me to teach people anything from how to use a fire extinguisher to setting up all the procedures people need to attain ISO or Achilles safety standards.”
Last week, Steve was in Harris helping train employees at the Isle of Harris Distillery, but he has also recently been working with a Lewis hair salon to look at customer and fire safety.
He said: “It doesn’t matter whether it’s manual handling, working at height, basic fire safety or first aid, safety standards are important for the wellbeing of customers and employees – and therefore for the long-term viability of businesses.
“Some businesses call me in to address a specific need – a regulation they need to comply with or the use of certain equipment. Others ask me to start with a complete audit of their health and safety protocols. I can be with them for anything from a single evening to a course of two or three months.”
There is, Steve believes, a relaxed attitude in the islands which makes it a great place to live and work. But there’s also a fine line to be walked on being too relaxed where legislation is concerned.
“Many businesses don’t realise that, if you have five employees or above, there are legal safety training requirements. I can do a health-check of a business and tell them what they need, or they can just ask me for help on a specific aspect of their work.
“The attitude here is lovely and the people are great but, where working conditions are concerned, it’s important that you get things right.”
The pictures show Steve at work with employees at the Isle of Harris Distillery.