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Safety Officer career guide

Safety officers are needed across various organisations in order to ensure the security of people.

Safeera Sarjoo
07th April 2016
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What is a safety officer?

Safety officers are crucial to promoting a safe environment for workers and ensure that they are complying with company policies and government regulations. Health and safety officers are based in a wide range of organisations – this can be multi-national corporations, small businesses and within the public sector. They work in partnership with employers, directors, employees and trade unions in order to minimise accidents, injuries, operational losses and occupational health problems.

What are their responsibilities?

Health and safety officers have an array of responsibilities which includes

  • Carrying out risk assessments
  • Discussing how risks can be reduced
  • Outlining operational procedures that take hazards into account
  • Carrying out regular site inspections
  • Making necessary changes that comply with safety legislation
  • Developing internal policies
  • Conduct accident investigations
  • Provide training on safety topics

What are some charactertistics that suit this role?

Being positive and passionate are two prerequisites in most jobs, however it is essential for safety officers to be critical thinkers, curious and resilient.

Some other characteristics that are important within this career includes

  • An eye for detail, which is essential when working to tackle hazards
  • Enjoy problem solving
  • Excellent communication when writing reports
  • Good at listening
  • Willing to learn and demonstrate knowledge in the sector
  • Good negotiation skills
  • Good level of physical fitness and stamina
  • Good at working under pressure

It is also important for safety officers to keep up to date with technical changes and the law. In doing this, they should be able to explain scientific and technical information succinctly. There are also times where unpopular decisions will need to be made and so an individual will need to be comfortable doing this and consulting with others when necessary.

Where are safety officers needed?

Safety officers are required across a broad range of sectors – some that are obvious and others that may surprise you.

Construction is one of the world’s most dangerous jobs and so exceptionally thorough health and safety is needed to protect workers who suffer both fatal and non-fatal injuries. Agriculture is another area where illnesses develop due to extensive chemical use and prolonged sun exposure. Farmers working on industrialised farms are also at risk when it comes to using machinery.

The service sector employs safety officers in order to identify potential hazards and addresses workplace issues that can have damaging effects on workers such as bullying, stress and being overworked.

Health care and social assistance and mining oil and gas extraction are other areas where health and safety officers can thrive and put their knowledge to good use.

Depending on the industry you’re working for, you may be based in an office but also spend time outside in sometimes dangerous, dirty and noisy environments.

Entry Requirements and Training

Health and safety officers have traditionally been a second career for those with a degree, however it is possible to work as a health and safety officer without a degree. A combination of health and safety experience and qualifications will be required.

You can get started with introductory courses that provide a basic understanding of the sector. This will include learning about health and safety in the workplace, regulations, risk assessment and basic accident investigation. The NEBOSH (National General Certificate in Occupational Health and Safety) is generally regarded as the minimum qualification required for a job within the health and safety industry. In the event that you don’t have professional qualifications, your training is likely to include studying for British Safety Council qualifications.

These qualifications meet the academic requirement for the Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH) graduate membership. In meeting this requirement, you are able to work towards chartered membership of IOSH. This is particularly helpful for career progression as well as opportunities for networking and making contacts.

Of course, working within scientific and technical fields and gaining an understanding of industrial processes will help you tremendously. Training is usually comprised of on the job learning as well as in-house or external courses. These are likely to be run by training departments, local colleges and universities and health and safety consultants.

As your level of responsibility grows, there is also scope to achieve more qualifications such as

  • National Diploma in Occupational Health and Safety
  • Level 5 (NVQ) Diploma in Occupational Health and Safety Practice
  • Level 6 Certificate/Diploma in Applied Health and Safety

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