While the world of health and safety might not immediately be viewed as a glamorous one, it isn’t a career choice that should just be disregarded. The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 imposes a duty on all employers “to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health, safety and welfare” of all those who work for them – so it’s important that companies implement this. Here are five things you should know before embarking on an H and S career.
1) Qualifications vary
While the actual full range of qualifications that you’ll ultimately take could differ depending on your actual role, the NEBOSH (National Examination Board in Occupational Safety and Health) general certificate is the industry-standard qualification for managers and employees who wish to either deal with health and safety issues, or pursue a career in the field. The course can be studied from home or in the classroom, but will comprise two weeks of full time study to give you a grounding in the discipline. There’s also the NVQ 5 diploma.
From there you might move on to trying to attain CMIOSH membership – becoming a chartered member in the institution of occupational safety and health – which recognises those who are at the top of their profession.
2) Work experience is important
As with many careers, gaining experience is vital for that first role. Speaking on the official ROSPA website, health and safety consultant Nathan Davies said: “I spent a week with a local environmental health department before I began my studies and found the experience extremely valuable. I sold PPE to safety managers before I got my first full time health and safety role. This gave me the chance to talk to experienced people, get to know the problems and some of the solutions to challenges and to understand the terminology and different organisational cultures of many types of workplaces.”
3) There’s good money
There might be a stigma about the phrase ‘health and safety professional’ but companies need them; no-one can calculate how many accidents and illnesses, and therefore how much potential legal action, they avert each year. Because of their importance such jobs are well-remunerated, starting at £20-30,000 but rising considerably for senior roles.
4) You need skills
It’s not just as easy as walking through the offices with a clipboard and pointing out what’s wrong; your health and safety skills need to include a natural ability to be a good communicator, especially if you’re trying to change well-established practices or age-old habits; for example, not wearing safety equipment from a company such as Safeaid, or failing to follow correct procedures.
Your suggestions might cost money to implement, so be prepared to look over company figures to come up with compromises. As your career progresses you’ll need to be a good teacher and pass on your eye for detail to others, and an ability to adapt…
5) There’s a huge range of opportunities
…because you could potentially move into any virtually any field. There is literally no sphere of work where health and safety is an irrelevance. You might be based in one factory or spend your days travelling between multiple branches across the country, or further afield. You might work in the public or private sector; in retail, litigation, leisure, sport, or the arts. Your career path can be as exciting or interesting as you make it.