Health and Safety Jobs and Careers
Every industry in the UK has employees and wherever there are employees, there is work for a health and safety professional. Coming under a wide range of titles, the Health and Safety (or Occupational Health and Safety) advisor or inspector is concerned with protecting people's physical welfare at work by making sure workplace risks are identified and controlled. Qualifications in the UK are administered by the National Examination Board in Occupational Safety and Health (NEBOSH).
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What do Health and Safety Jobs involve?
Health and Safety professionals utilise specialist industry expertise and knowledge of the country's stringent workplace regulations. Employers are bound to comply with these regulations to remove all risk of illness, injury or even death to employees. Where an accident has already happened, Health and Safety Inspectors are involved in identifying the cause.
Advisers are employed by various organisations to ensure compliance and a positive health and safety culture. Inspectors are employed by the state's Health and Safety Executive (HSE) to ensure regulations are adhered to, especially in industries where hazards are common, such as construction, hazardous products or agriculture/forestry.
At a policy level, the Health and Safety Advisor can be involved in the development of health and safety strategies, so that safe practice is built into the core of the organisation's activities from the outset, rather than being retrospectively applied. This means remaining up to date with changes in legislation and regulations.
Recommendations will be made as to safe procedures before those procedures are set up. Policies may include in-house training, with the Health and Safety professional training other managers and employees about health and safety. They have a strong input into fire regulations, risks around machinery, disposal of hazardous materials, bio risk and risk of disease. On a daily basis, they will monitor installation of or changes to equipment, oversee disposal of hazardous materials, and keep records of any accidents or incidents.
A Health and Safety Inspector will regularly visit an organisation or site to check policies and procedures and undertake risk assessments. If necessary, they will make recommendations to ensure compliance with regulations. They will keep records of their findings and compile reports consisting of recommendations.
Areas of Employment within Health and Safety
There are a wide variety of roles in Health and Safety.
Health and Safety Advisor
A Health and Safety Advisor usually works within one organisation or as an internal consultant for a group of companies. They may also be contracted to advise on a single project, such as an engineering or construction project. Their work is proactive in its advice and guidance capacity. They are frequently liaising with other professionals and bodies, particularly on contract work. The foundation qualification is the NEBOSH Diploma in Occupational Health and Safety, with specialist certificates depending on the industry concerned.
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Construction (Design and Management) is a sector in itself, with co-ordinators and advisors working on a single or series of projects in the private and public sector. As well as day-to-day responsibilities, these professionals advise on CDM Regulations and design risk management. Training includes the NEBOSH National Certificate in Construction Health and Safety, as well as membership of the Association of Project Safety.
Health and Safety Consultant / Trainer
Health and Safety Advisors frequently work on a consultancy basis. They may be involved in providing consultancy services to organisations setting up or revising their policies. Consultancy is often a route followed by businesses that are too small to employ their own full-time advisor. Other areas are environmental compliance, achieving and retaining ISO accreditation, property management risk and project-based consultancy.
Health and Safety Engineer
Health and Safety Engineers work in the many industrial areas where engineering activity is taking place. This can be construction projects, civil engineering projects, environmental projects, etc. The Health and Safety Engineer works with the project team support, guide and advise staff in safety, while ensuring compliance with all the required engineering and safety policies, procedures and standards. Sometimes this role is defined as HSEQ - the addition of Quality refers to ensuring that various quality accreditations are also met during processes and procedures. These professionals usually hold a relevant engineering degree, as well as a general Health and Safety Diploma and specialist Health and Safety Certificates.
Health and Safety Manager
Larger companies with multiple sites often recruit an Health and Safety Manager to oversee a team of Health and Safety Advisors. The manager is responsible for ensuring not only that Health and Safety standards are adhered to, but that Key Performance Indicators are still met despite the implementation of Health and Safety processes. This kind of role is common to industries where the profit margin is critical, such as FMCG (Fast Moving Consumer Goods) companies. Training to NEBOSH Diploma level is usually required, along with specialist certificates.
Site Officer / Supervisor
These Health and Safety professionals usually work on construction projects. As well as ensuring regulations are adhered to during the planning stages and throughout the project life cycle, the Officer has a strong day-to-day presence on construction sites. They may specialise in different types of construction. The usual qualification is the NEBOSH Construction Certificate, in addition to a construction or engineering qualification.
Other Health and Safety Specialist Jobs
These roles are numerous and varied in nature. Fire Safety Officer is one such position, with responsibility for assessments, advising on improvements, training staff and undertaking other fire safety activities. This officer will often have operational fire fighting experience, along with a NEBOSH Fire certificate. Another role is Water Services Manager, with responsibility for operational control of water management at various types of facilities, including pools. As well as the obvious safety risks, health risks might be infection with water born bacterium and legionella management.
What Skills do Health and Safety Jobs Require?
Training accredited with the examination board NEBOSH precludes the majority of Health and Safety positions, even if you already have a degree qualification. The range of training qualifications on offer reflects the huge variety of roles in the profession.
Diplomas are professional qualifications for health, safety and environmental practitioners. Certificates provide foundation training in health and safety for managers and supervisors, and for those just embarking on an Health and Safety career. Awards provide basic training and serve as an introduction to the certificates and diplomas.
Commonly, those embarking on Health and Safety careers and undertaking NEBOSH training already have a degree or HND in engineering, occupational safety, health studies or life science. This is appropriate as so much of the work involves operational processes, use of instrumentation and electronic monitoring of hazardous conditions. It is likely that in the future, only graduates will be able to work in Health and Safety roles, due to the increasing amount of scientific and technical knowledge required.
Postgraduate diplomas and MSc courses in occupational safety and health are also available. Those who hold these qualifications are likely to secure the higher paying positions.
Type of Person
Those who do well in the Health and Safety profession tend to display the following skills and qualities.
- Strong written and spoken communication skills, as the role involves disseminating the health and safety message to others through in-house training and group presentations.
- Negotiating skills, as these help the professional who is working with non-Health and Safety managers at the policy and planning stages, where there may be resistance to standards that slow processes.
- Patience and diplomacy, when dealing with internal and external team members.
- An analytical mind, with the ability to evaluate complex data, before processing this into recommendations.
- An investigative approach combined with an attention to detail.
- The ability to interpret regulations and understand their relevance in law.
- Technical abilities, to effectively utilise monitoring equipment and translate results.
- Statistical awareness, for analysing results and interpreting data to establish trends.
Finding Health and Safety Jobs
The majority of Health and Safety positions fall within the engineering industry, so are advertised in the many and considerable engineering websites and jobs pages. However, Health and Safety is a profession in its own right and is represented by the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH), the International Institute of Risk and Safety Management (IIRSM) and the Institute of Environmental Management and Assessment (IEMA). There are various jobs sites dedicated to Health and Safety (see below).
Most Health and Safety professionals specialise in a particular area. Promotion tends to require changing employers, as there are rarely large teams within single organisations. Many Health and Safety advisors move into management roles at group or regional level. Management qualifications of some description are usually required for Director positions.
Health and Safety Job Sites
- This is the jobs' site of the official magazine of the Chartered Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH): www.shp4jobs.co.uk