Health and safety adviser
37-40 per week
£22,000 + per year
As a health and safety adviser or officer, you would use your knowledge and skills to reduce injuries, accidents and health problems in the workplace. If you have an eye for detail and love problem solving, this could be the ideal job for you.
You will need to be able to apply your communication skills when writing reports or dealing with employers. You’ll also be expected to have a good knowledge of health and safety legislation.
Most health and safety advisers get into this role by either completing a qualification and then looking for work or studying whilst working. It is common for advisers to enter this profession with a degree level qualification.
As a health and safety adviser, officer or practitioner, it would be your aim to prevent accidents, injuries and health problems in the workplace. You would create health and safety policies, and make sure that employers and workers put them into practice and follow safety laws.
Depending on your employer, your work could cover areas such as fire safety, occupational health, noise, safe use of machinery and control of hazardous substances. Your key tasks could include:
- developing effective policies and procedures
- making regular inspections and risk assessments
- keeping accident records
- advising on protective clothing and equipment
- training employees on safety issues
- investigating accidents and recommending improvements in safety standards
- writing reports
- working with Health and Safety Executive inspectors and trade unions
- keeping up to date with changes in the law.
In some companies, responsibility for health and safety may be part of another job role such as personnel or facilities management. You could also be known as a health and safety coordinator or manager.
Your typical working hours would be 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday. In some industries your hours could be more irregular. You may work shifts or be on call in case of emergencies or accidents.
You would normally be based in an office. You could also spend time in other environments like factories, building sites or offshore rigs, depending on the industry you work in. In some industries the work could be very physical and you may need to work outside, at heights or in cramped spaces.
You may also be required to wear protective clothing like overalls, safety glasses or ear protectors.
Starting salaries can be between £22,000 and £35,000 a year depending on your role.
With more experience and responsibility, senior health and safety advisers may earn up to £50,000 or more.
Figures are intended as a guideline only.
To become a health and safety adviser, you can either study for health and safety qualifications whilst you are working, or you could take a full-time course before looking for work. It is becoming more common for health and safety advisers to enter the profession with a degree level qualification.
You may find it useful to have previous experience of risk assessment, or a background in construction, manufacturing, engineering or scientific work before moving into health and safety.
If you are new to health and safety, or if it is only one part of your job or trade union duties, you can start by taking a course that will offer you a good foundation. Courses are offered on a part-time basis or through distance learning. Some qualifications are offered by the National Examination Board in Occupational Safety and Health (NEBOSH) and the British Safety Council (BSC). Relevant courses include:
- Level 3 (NVQ) Certificate in Occupational Health and Safety
- NEBOSH National General Certificate in Occupational Health and Safety
- BSC Level 3 Certificate in Occupational Safety and Health.
You can then progress to more advanced qualifications as your level of responsibility grows. You will usually need a higher level of qualification approved by the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH) to work as a full-time health and safety officer. Qualifications include:
- NEBOSH National Diploma in Occupational Health and Safety
- BSC Level 6 Diploma in Occupational Safety and Health
- Level 5 (NVQ) Diploma in Occupational Health and Safety Practice
- full or part-time university degrees and postgraduate courses in occupational health and safety.
For more details about courses see the IOSH and NEBOSH websites.
Training and development
You will develop your skills on the job and also attend short training courses run by in-company training departments, local colleges or health and safety consultants.
If you do not already have them, your training may include part-time study for NEBOSH or BSC qualifications, or study towards other work-based industry awards.
You can also work towards specialist qualifications relevant to your particular job, such as:
- NEBOSH Specialist Diploma in Environmental Management
- BSC Diploma in Environmental Management
- NEBOSH National/International Certificate in Construction Health and Safety
- NEBOSH Fire Safety and Risk Management Certificate.
You will need to keep your knowledge up to date throughout your career. IOSH provides a range of short professional development courses to help you with this.
It may be useful for your career development to join a professional body such as IOSH or the International Institute of Risk and Safety Management (IIRSM). Many health and safety advisers also work for organisations who are members of professional bodies like the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) and the BSC.
You can join IOSH as a Technician or Graduate Member, depending on your qualifications and experience in health and safety. As a Graduate Member, you can work towards Chartered Membership of IOSH (CMIOSH), by taking part in a two-year Initial Professional Development scheme. For some more senior roles you may find that employers ask that you already hold or are working towards CMIOSH status. See the IOSH website for more information.
Skills, interests and qualities
To be a health and safety adviser you should have:
good spoken and written communication skills
good negotiation skills
a tactful but assertive manner
a good level of physical fitness and stamina
logical thinking and problem-solving ability
good organisational skills and attention to detail
the ability to cope under pressure
an understanding of relevant laws
You could work as a health and safety adviser in most industries, particularly construction, oil and gas, engineering, manufacturing, chemical processing, service industries and public services like hospitals and local authorities.
Jobs may be advertised in the local and national press, trade magazines and specialist recruitment agencies.
With experience, you could specialise in a particular area of health and safety, become an inspector with the Health and Safety Executive, or choose to work freelance as a consultant.
You may find the following links useful for job vacancies and general reading:
Job market information
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