Meet our Trustees – an interview with Hannah Mansell

Hannah Mansell

Hannah Mansell is Head of Technical Research and Insight for the British Woodworking Federation, Manager of BWF Certifire, spokesperson for the Fire Door Safety Week campaign and chair of the Passive Fire Protection Forum. She has been a Trustee with the Children’s Burns Trust since 2015.

Hannah is involved in many different areas associated with fire safety and training, liaising between different groups that are critical to the overall improvement of fire safety education. Hannah is also involved with a number of industry associations and workgroups, with a particular emphasis on safety campaigns and construction regulation and legislation.

You’ve been a Trustee for the Children’s Burns Trust for a while now, why did you decide to get involved?

I was a really accident-prone child, always jumping off things that I shouldn’t, doing things that I had been warned not to, and even running through the bakery glass window one day. This was usually greeted with great admiration by my siblings and sorted out with a good telling off from my parents and free issue of plasters.

But one day I was badly burnt across my arm and chest by a boiling cup of coffee, so I have first-hand experience of what a terrible and painful thing it can be. I was lucky, swift first aid and good aftercare minimised the impact of this burn. Later in life, working as Spokesperson for the Fire Door Safety Week campaign really focused my mind because I started to come into contact with people who had been really severely injured and those that had lost loved ones in accidents, and I started to consider how you even begin to try and pick up the pieces after these terrible tragedies.

It seemed like a natural progression to get involved with the Children’s Burns Trust, particularly in the prevention, rehabilitation and awareness arena, and I am so glad that I did. CBT is an absolutely unique and special charity, that if it didn’t exist, there would there would be a vacuum in its place.

There simply isn’t another organisation that works in this way. It plays such an important role, and I have met some extraordinary and inspirational people by working with them.

What makes CBT unique? What do you think is the charity’s biggest achievement?

The Children’s Burns Trust, despite its very small size, manages to achieve some amazing outcomes by assisting survivors and their families, and through our awareness and prevention campaigns. CBT works closely and links up a larger network of burns professionals and survivors across the country, sharing burns data, and its often the conduit to getting really big things achieved by group effort, or linking up people who work in a really niche area of burns care. A good example of this is the sponsorship of family therapy and activities that support rehabilitation or awareness campaigns such as National Burns Awareness Day.

I think the charity’s biggest achievement has to the positive, long-term impact that the support it provides has on the lives of burns survivors and their families.

When we speak to some of our beneficiaries who were severely injured at a young age, see how they have flourished into confident teenagers and young adults, it is really breath-taking to watch, because they haven’t let their injuries change how they want to live their lives.

The work of CBT concentrates on both short and long-term rehabilitation, so we often maintain long-term relationships with burns survivors and their families as well.

Your day-job is Technical Manager for the British Woodworking Federation, who are a great supporter of CBT. Why and how do they support the charity?

The British Woodworking Federation members manufacture over 3 million timber fires doors into the UK market every year, and they also founded the Fire Door Safety Week campaign in order to promote awareness of best practice and safety in this sector.

Our members recognise how the products they make impact on the safety and wellbeing of people that use them, particularly in a life safety situation, and see it as part of their social responsibility and wider awareness activities to support CBT.

The great thing is that the British Woodworking Federation is able to weave our day to day activities into our support for CBT, for instance including CBT fundraising activities in members meetings and events, or choosing a specific event like the BWF-Certifire Technical Seminars to donate directly by ticket sales to the charity. In addition, lots of what we do is about awareness and the prevention of accidents so there a natural synergy there too. We also had some individual members who decide to support the Children’s Burns Trust in their own way, and the CBT corporate support pack that really useful for members to develop their own support initiatives.

CBT is a key supporter of National Burn Awareness Day. How important is this event and what key messages do you think parents would be most surprised to know?

I think that NBAD is the biggest awareness event in the burns community, and it really reaches into every corner. The importance of the campaign cannot be overstated, it’s about awareness and prevention of burns, it’s about informing our supporters regarding accurate first aid advice and it’s also a way that we can show solidarity with the different burns communities and survivors. I think that a large part of what working with a charity is all about, harnessing the power of your supporters and network to do something amazing together.

One of this things that people are surprised to know is firstly how commonly children get burnt, that its usually through everyday activities like play and exploration, that they usually happen in the home and administering basic first aid quickly in the event of a burn is crucial to minimising long term damage.

When I was burnt as a child my mum held me under the kitchen tap for at least half an hour while they got proper first aid. I don’t actually remember this because I was screaming my head off, but I was recently reminded by my sister.

You are involved with a number of industry associations and workgroups, with an emphasis on safety, construction and legislation. If you could see one change within the industry, what would it be and why?

That’s a really hard question because it’s a massive and complex subject, but it’s one that has been forced into the spotlight after the Grenfell Tower fire last year, and it needs a considered answer.

I think that there needs to be a cultural shift in how building fire safety and construction products are managed in their procurement, installation and service throughout the life of a building. At times many stakeholders in the chain lose sight of the real end objective, being that the industry needs to be designing and future-proofing buildings to protect the changing needs and vulnerabilities of our communities and realise that they hold the power now to make buildings safer and healthier for generations to come.

You were awarded the Association for Specialist Fire Protection (ASFP) Fellowship Award ‘Advocate for Passive Fire Protection 2017’ in December. What did this mean to you?

I felt very shy when I won this award because I didn’t think that I deserved it. I work with an amazing group of people and organisations, like the British Woodworking Federation, the Children’s Burns Trust, the Passive Fire Protection Forum and all our supporters of the Fire Door Safety Week campaign. I couldn’t have got this award without their support, encouragement and inspiration, so it was only right that I dedicated to them instead.

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