Training the industry for 50 years

The dedication of 3 generations from one family

PEIMF member, GSS Training, have been training personnel in our industry for nearly fifty years. Managing Director Emma McMullen represents the third generation of this dedicated family and introduces us here to their extraordinary commitment and passion.

Whenever I introduce myself at the start of a training course, one of my delegates usually asks;

“Are you Kerry and Glyn’s daughter?”

My typical answer to this question is ‘yes’ – though I joke that I don’t usually like to admit to it.

Originally, when General Site Services (shortened to GSS in the 1970s) was founded by my grandfather John Morris Jones. His primary aim was to improve safety, pay and welfare for workers in the engineering and construction industry. In 1977, as recognition for his achievements in the field, he gained an OBE for services to the construction industry, and became chairman of the National Joint Council for the Engineering Construction Industry.

As a family, we have passionately continued this legacy for a number of decades. GSS Training was formed by Kerry and Glyn Jones in 2006, to expand John Morris Jones’ work. We now deliver health and safety training for over 4,000 delegates per year across a variety of sectors including: the fuel, construction, engineering, food, aggregates and public sectors. We have dedicated training venues in Manchester, Runcorn and Bradford and train all over the UK and Europe.

Punching above our weight

For a small company, we believe that we operate on a far higher level than our size would suggest, and our people have been involved in the development of training and standards across a range of industries. I myself have sat for the waste industry on the Waste Industry Safety and Health (WISH) People and Performance Group; tasked with looking at ways in which the health and safety message can be delivered effectively. Kerry has sat on the Petroleum Retailers National Steering Group (PRNSG) alongside organisations such as Tesco, Shell and BP Petrol for over 15 years.

A large proportion of our work at GSS

Training concerns safety passports. These include the UK Petroleum Industry Association (UKPIA) Forecourt Contractor Safety Passport Scheme. Many oil companies and supermarket retailers require contract workers to complete this training before they are allowed to work on their fuel filling stations.

In an industry that is rapidly evolving with new fuels, new technologies and new risks, it is increasingly important that those working on filling stations are kept up to date with how to ensure the safety of themselves and the public. This training ensures that all workers are given the same message before they commence work on a site.

Enjoy your training!

We often find that some of our delegates turn up to our courses in the morning expecting to dislike the training, and believing that they won’t learn anything. Perhaps this is a reflection of the ‘traditional’ safety training that they are used to. As a trainer; it’s incredibly rewarding when delegates enjoy themselves, participate, ask questions and thank us at the end of the course for a fun and informative day. The best evidence we have for this is that we have clients who have been coming back to us time and again for over 15 years.

As we have open courses, the delegates who book with us have incredibly varying levels of experience and many different skill sets. We may have delegates who have never worked on a petrol forecourt before including: shop fitters, sign fitters, groundworkers or refrigeration engineers. We also train delegates including Petroleum Officers themselves and those who were working on forecourts long before leaded petrol was phased out. Many of the people coming onto our courses have never heard of vapour recovery, hazardous zones or clearance certificates, let alone the obvious and less apparent risks that need to be managed whilst working on site. And for those who have been refreshing their safety passports for years; they often seek an update on new technologies and legal changes.

New technologies

Popular questions across the past couple of years have centred around updates on the installation and use of electric vehicle charging points on forecourts, the future of the forecourt industry in general, questions relating to newer fuels and updates on CE marking and UKCA (UK Conformity Assessed) marking. We are all in a period of tremendous change. We have new fuels and technologies sitting on the same sites as more familiar fuels. We have forecourts changing hands and the usual churn of contractors in and out of the industry. Coronavirus has changed employee work patterns and places of work. As a training business; we have seen a full-circle shift in training from traditional face-to-face training, to requests for online training throughout the pandemic and now back again to classroom-based training.

As a response to the first wave of Coronavirus, the Petroleum Retailers National Steering Group (PRNSG) allowed the UKPIA Forecourt Contractor Safety Passport Renewal course to be sat online. It was decided that for those contractors new to the industry or those who didn’t have an existing in-date Safety Passport; they would still need the increased interaction that a classroom course provides. Even now, the petroleum industry continues to strive for high standards of health and safety and this is continually reflected in the training programmes that are delivered.

Adapting to change

Throughout the past couple of years, we have found that most of our clients prefer face-to-face training. Whilst at the beginning of this period wearing a shirt for the camera and pyjama bottoms off-screen may have been a novelty, subsequent frustrations with technology and the associated lack of interaction seem to have won out. We find that the classroom environment lends itself much better to conversation and learning from other delegate experiences than online training can yet provide.

As the industry changes, so do we at GSS Training. We are bringing in a new suite of CITB Site Safety Plus courses including the HSA, SSSTS and SMSTS. Kerry and Glyn will be semi-retiring on the 31st March and my partner Liz and I will be taking over the company. Whilst writing this article, it strikes me that although so much has changed across the fuel industry, our general drive towards improving safety for everyone on site is exactly the same as my grandfather’s was when he started General Site Services over fifty years ago. I look forward to meeting the challenges of the next few decades with the same optimism that both he and my parents have had before me.

Training at GSS in the 1970s

Emma McMullen, Managing Director

Article featured image: click to enlarge

Go back

Return to Industry Articles