Health and safety adviser
A health and safety adviser offers expert knowledge and skills in order to generate and promote a positive health and safety culture. This represents a key role in helping to control occupational risk.
Health and safety advisers are based in a range of organisations from multinationals to small consultancies, and work in partnership with employers, employees, directors and trade unions.
They are responsible for ensuring that all safety legislation is adhered to and policies and practices are adopted. They help to plan, implement, monitor and review the protective and preventative measures that companies are required or choose to follow, and work to minimise operational losses, occupational health problems, accidents and injuries.
Work activities vary, depending on the employer or employment sector. However, tasks typically involve:
Salary figures are intended as a guide only.
In the past, it was more common for health and safety advisers to move into the profession from a background in science, technology or management, but today health and safety is a discipline in its own right.
Much of the work involves an appreciation of operational processes as well as the use of instruments and electronic monitoring, especially of hazardous conditions. An accredited degree/HND in the following subjects will increase your chances:
Although entry is possible for non-graduates, there is a move towards increasing the percentage of graduates in the profession. This will lead to those with an HND qualification facing more competition from graduates when trying to secure employment.
Postgraduate diplomas and MSc courses in occupational safety and health offer an entry route at postgraduate level.
Some experience of working in scientific and technical fields at an operational level and gaining an understanding of industrial processes would be extremely valuable. Using such experience to develop an interest in health and safety before moving into an advisory role is still a recommended route into the profession.
Candidates will need to show evidence of the following:
It will be an advantage if you have knowledge of computer applications for preparing reports and recording and analysing statistics, which is the basis for analysing trends.
Physical fitness is important, and sometimes essential, especially for working in large-scale plants or on outdoor sites.
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Training consists of on-the-job learning complemented by short, in-house or external training courses, which may be run by training departments, local colleges and universities, or health and safety consultants.
Health and safety advisers should take advantage of continuing professional development (CPD) opportunities on offer in the industry to enhance their professional competence and skills. The National Examination Board in Occupational Safety and Health (NEBOSH) and the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH) offer such training, and postgraduate and MSc courses are offered at institutions nationwide.
All health and safety advisers are required to keep their professional knowledge up to date and the IOSH offers a CPD scheme called My CPD, which is accessible online. CPD provides a structured approach to the maintenance, improvement and broadening of the health and safety adviser's knowledge and skills. It also includes the development of personal qualities needed to carry out managerial and technical duties.
Graduates working in the profession can gain graduate membership of the IOSH and full membership of the International Institute of Risk and Safety Management (IIRSM) . To qualify as a graduate member of the IOSH you must have an IOSH-accredited degree or equivalent qualification and be working towards chartered membership through the Initial Professional Development (IPD) scheme. The IPD scheme normally takes around two years to complete.
Membership is increasingly used by employers as a criterion for recruitment and remuneration, and is often specified in job adverts. All applications are initially processed with a view to affiliate membership and the IOSH then works with the applicant on the completion of their CPD and guides them into the most appropriate membership level for their skills set.
Further education programmes through local universities and colleges will allow health and safety advisers to progress steadily through the IOSH membership ranks. Most courses last between one and two years. Entry requirements vary; students with no formal qualifications but lots of practical work experience are welcomed alongside those who have taken a formal educational route into the profession through university.
In order to progress their careers and achieve enhanced status and reward, health and safety professionals need to be willing to change employers. The career of a health and safety adviser can be developed by moving into management at regional and group level. Some organisations also recruit at director level and such posts may attract salaries of £100,000. A Diploma in Management Studies or an MBA, as well as a health and safety qualification, would be likely requirements for these posts.
Health and safety advisers can also develop their career by moving to a larger organisation, by specialising in a particular industrial sector, e.g. nuclear safety or offshore oil and gas, or by gaining expertise in particular areas, such as hazardous substances, security or terrorism.
There are also opportunities in universities and colleges for lecturing and research, e.g. in higher education as a lecturer for BSc and MSc courses, or in further education as a lecturer for National Examination Board in Occupational Safety and Health (NEBOSH) and Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations (COSHH) courses.
Some health and safety advisers become consultants specialising in supporting small organisations or giving specialist advice. There are also opportunities to work overseas.
Health and safety advisers are becoming more common as organisations increasingly adopt risk assessment strategies. Although traditionally associated with industrial, processing and manufacturing sites, health and safety officers may also be employed by hotel and restaurant chains, large companies with responsibility for many office workers, hospitals, companies involved in the transport network, local authorities and national government organisations, universities and colleges.
The most common areas of employment for health and safety advisers are:
Opportunities also exist for work as consultants specialising in supporting small organisations or giving specialist advice.
Further opportunities for qualified health and safety professionals are emerging out of tighter legislative controls and increased litigation by victims of accidents in the workplace. There will always be new challenges in occupational safety and health.
If you are seeking work as a health and safety professional, you should also use the websites, journals and publications of the industry you are interested in, e.g. for the health sector, see NHS Careers .
Larger organisations and multinational companies may advertise directly on their own websites and some recruitment agencies also handle vacancies.
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