A health and safety officer (also called HSO) monitors how an organization complies with health and safety legislation and provides advice to businesses and employers on safe work environments. An HSO will generally work for the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), local government or similar body, specially trained to monitor compliance with health and safety regulations. Health and safety workers also exist in private organizations, usually larger, and in the public sector, such as hospitals and schools, etc.
Health and safety workers are employed in a variety of industries such as construction, manufacturing, catering, waste, IT and aerospace and many more. The objective is simple: to ensure the safety of people in the work environment.
An HSO has a number of responsibilities. Whenever you visit an organization, the health and safety officer should record all of the information. They perform routine inspections over time, which includes gathering evidence and taking samples, if necessary. They should investigate all complaints that have been made regarding the working environment and provide advice on technical and legal matters. They should collect evidence and create records, which includes maintaining an inspection database. If necessary, an HSO may be required to present information to the court or to other public inquiries concerning injuries and/or death in the workplace. More than anything, an HSO will ensure that an organization complies with the law and does not take the health and safety of its staff for granted. If this were the case, the officer would suggest ways to improve working conditions and monitor any changes made thereafter. Thus, a health and safety officer has many functions – but it is an important task, which contributes to making work environments much safer for many companies, and can be a successful career path to follow.
You normally need a National Higher Diploma (HND) or a diploma, usually in occupational health and safety. There are also qualifications at a higher level for those who are clear about their career path. To practice as a health and safety officer, you can complete a BSc or an MSc in environmental health, they are accredited by the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health (CIEH) in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland; in Scotland, they are credited by the Royal Environmental Health Institute of Scotland (REHIS).
However, to access these courses, you will need other qualifications. You will need NVQ or A levels. Ideally, these qualifications will be one of science (chemistry, biology, and physics) or math, but this is not a major problem if it is not. However, you would need at least 5 A-C grades at the GCSE level, with at least a B in math.
There are other courses available that can provide you with work experience. There are also work-study courses, which means that you will continue to gain work experience in the field you have chosen, but if the majority of your studies will be in college, the rest of your time will be spent in another university.
Don’t worry if you don’t have a degree. Many career prospects see people evolving into different roles and the health and safety officer is one of them. The National Examination Board for Occupational Safety and Health (NEBOSH) diploma and certificate are probably the most sought after qualifications for this position. NEBOSH and IOSH another qualification in health security appears on most job descriptions. NEBOSH courses are generally studied in college and can be taken full-time and part-time and require the student to take exams at the end. However, it is more and more common now that NEBOSH courses can be studied intensively over 10-14 days, which can really help those looking to accelerate their careers.
What employers are looking for
Health and safety are important areas that all organizations must always consider. Therefore, as an ASS, you will need to make sure that all of the environments you come in contact with are safe and healthy, or if not, suggest ways to improve them. As a result, employers look for a number of key skills from a health and safety officer.
Communication skills are very important; you will often have to suggest potential faults, so it is essential to be able to explain the problems, the possible consequences if they are not resolved and how to fix them in a clear, considerate and calm manner. Otherwise, it could have the opposite effect and the suggested modifications will not be made out of spite, which could then cause a danger.
You should also be calm. There will be moments of extreme pressure and high stress. For example, if you need to report an incident in which, due to non-compliance with health and safety regulations, a worker has been injured or even killed, you may need to advise and create a prosecution file, which could involve gathering evidence photographs and speaking with those most closely related to the incident. While you are not at fault, it will always be stressful and difficult to manage, so being able to stay calm under such pressures is of great importance to you, the organization and the people involved.
There are other features that an employer will want to see. You will need to be motivated and well organized, as you will usually need to create and maintain your own inspection records. You must be able to think on your feet; if you see the potential danger, knowing quickly how to fix it means it will be dealt with faster. And you should always be open to advise from others; you can suggest a course of action that may be wrong, or maybe there is a better way to deal with a problem. Being able to listen to others will help you improve and make you a better health and safety officer.
How much money will I make as a health and safety officer in the UK?
For those just starting out in health and safety, as well as for graduates, the starting salary should be around £ 25,000. Depending on the size of the organization and its location, however, this figure could be higher, perhaps up to £ 40,000 for a large company in a highly populated part of the country. Upon entering a managerial position, the starting salary for a health and safety officer will be even higher, with some earning more than £ 60,000.
In addition, there may be opportunities to work for private sector companies, which advise on health and safety issues and work on an advisory basis earning £ 250 – £ 1,000 per day. Salaries will be roughly the same as those for a “regular” health and safety officer, but those who reach senior counseling positions generally earn more than £ 100,000. So, one can understand why, if the option of working as a health and safety consultant becomes available, most would take it.
Pros and Cons of Becoming a Health and Safety Officer in the UK
There are advantages and disadvantages to being a health and safety officer. While being able to spot and avoid hazards may seem logical, there are potential problems that can make work stressful.
• High annual salaries once qualifications are earned
• Much of the learning is based on logic
• Helping others will make your own working environment safer
• You will spot potential hazards quicker than others & prevent them easily
• A lot of pressure to ensure you do your job well & help to avoid danger
• Can be stressful when dealing with cases involving injury and/or death
• Possibly poor conditions in factories, roof spaces or outdoors
Helpful Contact Information
For further information on the qualifications accredited by the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health, contact:
Chartered Institute of Environmental Health