Career Story: Jonathan Ellis – Director of Health, Safety & Security

27/04/2021
Natalie Mallory

Career Story: Jonathan Ellis – Director of Health, Safety & Security at Alton Towers Resort

To mark the World Day for Safety and Health at Work, we decided to speak to Jonathan Ellis - our Director of Health, Safety & Security for Alton Towers Resort. Check out his interview! 

So, Jonathan, tell us a little about yourself...

I started my career as a metallurgist. Degree at Imperial College specialising in High Temperature Technology and Slag[1] Chemistry and then starting work with a special metallurgical supplier in Rotherham, where amongst other things we made half the world’s chromium at temperatures well above 2000 Celsius.

Then followed a spell running a marketing and sales office for the MoD before I joined the railway (Network Rail). Network Rail is the largest construction company in the UK and runs its own power distribution network and telecoms infrastructure. I was responsible for authorising all train movements on the national network, included checking for electrical compatibility, power usage, bridge resonance etc... and gaining approval for infrastructure upgrades.

This role was very much about engineering safety, and from there I moved into passenger and public safety being responsible for the organisation’s largest day to day risks on level crossings, trespass, and signal overrun. From developing algorithms for safety decision making, to educating the public and managing the regulator there was a very pleasing reduction in safety risk.

Having done this for several years I left Network Rail and joined a global risk consultancy. I advised clients in high hazard industries around the globe. From establishing global safety reporting systems to management of self-harm on transport networks. Highlights included supporting the construction of the largest refrigeration plant in Europe at Grangemouth, improving quality management in projects at Sullom Voe Oil Terminal and harmonising safety processes for transport of dangerous goods across Europe.

Molten Slag

[1] A slag is a molten oxide and is vital in steel making for removing impurities in steel. To slag off is then to remove and expose all the bad characteristics of someone and hence its modern usage.

How would you sum up your job to someone who doesn’t know anything about Health & Safety?

Its about achieving safety whilst still being able to say yes to the desires and wants of the organisation. Guests come to a theme park for escapism and the H+S role is to keep them safe while here, but make sure that the safety measures balance with a good experience.

How did you come to work for us?

One of the projects I did whilst in consultancy was a series of safety audits of Merlin sites across the globe. Most guests coming to a Merlin theme park do not see the extensive range of technologies employed. At Alton Towers Resort we produce our own energy, have our own water supply, feed thousands of people a day, have coasters that employ the same block signalling technology as railways, the same launch capability as an air craft carrier, and do all of this in a listed historical monument.

No where else in the UK offers the range of daily challenges that provide an exciting place to work.

Runaway Mine Train

What’s the main challenge in your role?

Never relaxing. Its important to keep across every risk in the organisation, not to just focus on a few.

What’s most rewarding about what you do?

Keeping what we do invisible to the guest but still highly effective.

What would you say to someone interested in starting down a similar career path?

The range of safety challenges that you will find at a Theme Park Resort is unique in the UK and will set you up for a career in any sector. Challenges will be varied and daily.

 Bring Joy, Take Pride