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Entering the health and safety world: How do I start?

Posted by NOSA on Jan 5, 2017 9:00:00 AM


So you’re thinking of pursuing a career in health and safety. But, where’s the start line? Or are there several starting options? Must you decide from the get-go how you wish to specialise (i.e. focusing on conducting audits)? The following blog breaks down the process you’ll most likely follow, from decision, to studying, to working, and finally to how your role fits in the bigger picture of an organisation.

3 questions asked and answered about how to start a SHE career

What qualifications are required to make a career in health and safety?

The qualifications that are required to make a career in health and safety are dependent on the type of role that you take. There are many qualifications that are appropriate, but most health and safety practitioners start with short introductory courses. Many people then realise that they and their employers demand a greater level of knowledge, and will go on to study further (perhaps even towards a diploma or degree in a relevant field). Whatever you decide, what your studies should enable you to do is have a full grasp of the challenges you’ll be exposed to.


What are employers looking for in a health and safety candidate?

Employers look for candidates with personal skills and attributes that fit with the specific company and role. Candidates that are keen, interested and have the ability to adapt to different situations and challenges will be the most successful in finding jobs. Employers are legally obliged to make sure that the people that they employ are competent, and experience working in the industry is also really very useful.


What kind of things should people be looking for when they are trying to find the best safety training courses, to have the best chance of achieving?

When choosing a safety training course…

  • Look for an organisation that can provide a venue:
  • you can get to easily
  • that is specifically designed for training
  • that is comfortable
  • with access to further materials and information when you need them.
  • Look for an organisation and tutors with:
  • recognised teaching qualifications
  • experience in delivery and practical application
  • previous sustained success
  • a delivery that allows for discussion and sharing experiences
  • a varied use of getting the information across (i.e. not death by PowerPoint)
  • trainers that use their experience to develop training material
  • access to support, and further assistance when doing assignments, before, during and after the course.


4 paths that lead to a career in health and safety

There are many ways to enter the safety field and advance along a career path. Here are a few routes of entry:


Option #1: Safety and health degrees

A common career path is to obtain a Bachelor’s or Master’s degree in safety and enter the field as a professional. Some may begin with an associate degree in safety, health or the environment or a closely related field (e.g. engineering).


Option #2: Safety by assignment

Many people get involved in safety at various levels because their employer or union assigned them safety responsibility. The assignment may be on a safety committee, plant safety committee, as a collateral duty or part-time assignment, or as a full-time safety person. These assignments often progress in responsibility. Some may start in other roles, such as human resources, with safety as part of their job. The responsibility grows with the effort to improve safety performance and compliance.


Option #3: Craft-to-professional

A number of people begin their involvement in safety through a leadership role in their craft or work group. As a supervisor or team leader, they may have responsibility for the safety of others. Interest in advancing safety may lead to a greater safety assignment.


Option #4: Safety by experience

Sometimes people get involved in safety because they were part of a significant incident in which they or others were injured or became ill. The experience moves them to pursue safety as a career field. Roles and responsibilities may increase over time.




What are some of the positions in health and safety?

The following is a list of the potential positions you could hold if you follow a career in health and safety. (Please note this is not a finite list. There are many different job choices you can enjoy.)


  • HSE Officer
  • HSE Coordinator
  • Project HSE Advisor
  • HSE Manager
  • SHEQ Co-ordinator
  • SHEQ Manager
  • Drilling Safety Supervisor
  • Occupational Nurse
  • Occupational Hygienist
  • Safety Manager
  • Quarry Supervisor
  • Production Manager
  • Production Supervisor
  • Environmental, Health and Safety Manager
  • Maintenance Leader
  • Facilities Leader
  • Machine Operator
  • Safety Facilitator
  • Field Supervisor
  • HSE Engineer
  • HSE Site Lead
  • Construction Manager
  • Operator
  • Senior Test Officer
  • Risk Supervisor
  • HSE Practitioner


How does SHE fit into a company’s overall strategy?


How does health and safety help with strategic decision making?

Strategic decision making is all about risk management. Getting the right information on health and safety improves the chances of success, and helps to prevent accidents – which every business needs to do because accidents are so costly, in all sorts of ways that organisations do not initially realise.


Do health and safety career professionals actually reach the top and become directors?

Health and safety is one crucial element of the mix of skills, along with finance, marketing and human resources (for example). It is becoming increasingly important for companies to implement effective health and safety practices. Having someone with a real interest in safety at a director level can hasten achieving this.


Now that you have the necessary information at your disposal, consider your training options to get started on your health and safety career.


Other related posts you may find useful:

5 ways to motivate your boss to pay for your health and safety training

How to be your office health and safety advocate

What sort of health and safety professional are you?

I saved my colleague: How becoming a SHE professional saved my life










Topics: Career in Health and Safety, HSE

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