There are few more critical, varied and rewarding roles in the modern workplace than that of the health and safety officer.
From protecting the wellbeing of the individual and safeguarding everyday interactions, right through to maintaining the legal standing of the company and preserving corporate reputation, the accomplished practitioner is a real asset for any organisation.
The costs are very real. The Labour Force Surveyfound that 30.7 million working days were lost last year due to work-related ill health and non-fatal workplace injuries. The HSENI 2018 Annual Reportfound a decrease in workplace deaths to 11 in 2017-2018 from 16 the previous year. However, the number of serious injuries rose 27% to 453 incidences.
As the world of work is constantly evolving and changing, so too are the challenges. The CIPD also foundthat the greatest risks to employee well-being are psychological. For the year ending 2017, it found that:
- 37% of organisations report stress-related absence was on the up
- 55% report common mental health conditions have risen (from 41% in 2016).
There’s a range of different types of risk within the workplace. Most obviously, these can be the kind of ergonomic strains you expect to find around office workstations, to more serious hazards environmental hazards and the avoidable more work-based injury.
On a practical level, the health and safety officer is – of course, preventing serious accident – but is also carrying training and Inductions, managing policies and carrying out inspections as well as keeping across legislation and performing safety audits.
Sound complicated? Don’t worry, NEBOSH qualificationsprovide the structured learning and best-practice knowledge needed to enter and thrive within the profession. The NEBOSH National General Certificate in Occupational Health and Safety is a good starting point. Candidates can then specialise via courses such as the National Certificate in Construction Health and Safety.
It’s also important to look into the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health(IOSH) – the chartered body for health and safety professionals. For graduates, IOSH will recognise some degrees as a cognate course entitling graduates to membership.
What are soft skills can be found in the toolbox of a great health and safety officer?
Being able to relate information in a way that resonates across teams and departments is a challenge, so offering strong and effective communication is such a critical part of the job.
Allied to this is a talent for negotiating and winning buy-in for policy changes and new practices with middle and senior managers. And as with so many of the roles in the economy now, good IT and Communication skills are an essential part of the job.
With all this in place the biggest demand for practitioners lies in construction, manufacturing and the public sector. There are also more specialised health and safety jobs in Fire Safety and CDM (The Construction (Design & Management) Regulations).
At a strategic level, every organisation throughout the economy sets out to maximise their impact on the marketplace. By managing its exposure risk and limiting its liabilities, the health and safety practitioner – whether at trainee and entry-level, or senior management and Director – can be a highly valued and well-remunerated leader within the organisation.