Your Career in Health and Safety for 2022

Careers By Matthew Coombes

A career in health and safety can be very rewarding. The work undertaken can be creative, analytical, interesting and diverse. One of the best things about health and safety as a field is that in the UK, every single company needs to be actively and effectively managing health and safety to keep employees safe, and keep their organisation operational and out of the courts. This means that what one health and safety advisor does in their career compared to another can differ greatly.

The same goes for starting that career.

Getting started

This year, there are arguably more routes than ever to get started in a career in health and safety. Training is affordable and accessible online, employers are looking for new prospects and many see the value in building employees from scratch and the pandemic has shown us that without health and safety, the world quickly grinds to a halt.

So where should you start?

Look at where you currently are. Can you afford to spend the time and money to build up some skills relevant to the field before you go looking for a job?

Qualifications

NEBOSH

NEBOSH qualifications are a great way to show potential employers that you’ve got the knowledge and skills that you need to manage risks as a health and safety advisor/manager. Many employers look for the NEBOSH General Certificate in Occupational Health and Safety on the CV of would-be health and safety advisors, so completing this qualification can help your chances of getting a job.

City & Guilds


If you already have an employer, and you’re looking to change your responsibilities at work, or develop into a new role, completing a National Vocational Qualification can be a great way to develop new skills bit-by-bit while at your workplace. The City & Guilds Occupational Health and Safety (3654) Level 3 certificate is suitable for anyone, in any sector, no matter what your level of experience is.

IOSH

IOSH Managing Safely® is a health and safety qualification for managers, supervisors and team leaders that provides you with the skills needed to effectively assess health and safety risks, and keep your team safe. At a very affordable £195.00 + VAT, it is an ideal qualification for anyone looking to understand how they can manage health and safety in the workplace. The course is suitable for anyone, in any sector, across the world and is chosen by managers, individuals and companies to develop health and safety competency.


It’s worth noting that…
Qualifications aren’t the be-all and end-all of a good career in health and safety. Sometimes you just need a supportive employer to take a chance and develop you while you work. There are many professionals working in health and safety who primarily rely on their experience, or who have gained qualifications while they’re already in a health and safety role.


Many of the resources that you need to develop your experience in health and safety are available online for free.

Resources to develop your understanding for free

HSE Website – The UK’s Health and Safety Executive have a wide library of free information on a range of health and safety topics. If you want to develop further understanding in a particular area to improve your career, or get into a specific industry, it’s a great place to go to find out more about the HSE’s views of best practice.

Government Legislation – Sometimes the best way to learn something new is to go right to the source of the legislation. Legislative documents are all available online to read for free. No one is expecting you to memorise the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, but it can certainly help your understanding to look at how the legislation is written, and what the documents are expecting of employers and employees.

Webinars – I’ve written a whole article about why IOSH webinars are an amazing resource, and I still stand by every word! You don’t need to be a member of IOSH to attend the majority of IOSH webinars, and they’re packed full of important information on key and current topics and the presenters always do a fantastic job of providing balanced and informed information.

You can even use the ACT website as a resource – did you know we have over 182 articles on our website that can be read for FREE? It’s a great way to learn new information because I’ve already done all the research for you!

Getting a job in health and safety

Unsurprisingly, there is no single path or straight forward answer for how to get a job in health and safety. Just like any other field, there are lots of different routes you can take, and no one’s professional journey is exactly the same.

Here are four of the paths that you can take to start a career in health and safety:

The Networker

Health and Safety events and conferences, social media networks like LinkedIn, talking directly to health and safety companies and professionals, and the IOSH Membership and Mentoring programmes are all great ways to start developing your connections in the health and safety world.

The old saying “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know” can certainly ring true when you get your job from seeing a post on LinkedIn from someone you met at an event, an IOSH webinar or a one day CPD course!

The Recruit

Recruiters exist in any industry, and using an agency to get a job can often take a good chunk of the hassle out of it. Most recruiters take 100% of their costs from the company that is hiring, so it should be free to get set up with a recruitment company. They’ll contact you if they have anything suitable for you, and some even offer free career and coaching services.

A great place to start looking for the health and safety industry is the Shirley Parsons website.

The Climber

Everybody (particularly the British) loves an underdog story! You don’t have to jump straight in at certificate level, work as a health and safety manager and get to where you want to be from there. You can start with the basics – develop your understanding gradually and if there is scope within your workplace, ask for health and safety responsibilities.

This is certainly easier said than done, but I’ve met professionals who started out as worker representatives and now manage health and safety for entire companies.
If you’re a climber, just beware the dreaded ‘millennial promotion’ (More work, more responsibilities, but the same pay!) Particularly if these responsibilities include legal obligations and liability.

The ‘How did I end up here?’

Typically, this path is reserved for those who have slowly but surely shifted into a career in health and safety. Managers, team leaders and supervisors in the UK have responsibilities to keep their team safe and to effectively manage risks in the workplace. This means that they need specialist skills, knowledge and training to effectively fulfil these responsibilities. Sometimes (particularly when they’re very good at it), the scope of their responsibilities and their team gradually increases and one day they realise “Bloody hell, I’m one of those health and safety managers…”!


This article was written by Matthew Coombes

I’d say that I definitely fit into the ‘How did I end up here?’ path!

I undertook my NEBOSH General Certificate in Occupational Health and Safety via e-learning during the start of the pandemic with the support of my manager, completing my qualification in February 2021. Since then, I’ve taken over responsibility as the health and safety advisor for ACT. More recently, I’ve completed my NEBOSH Certificate in Fire Safety, and I’ve now taken on additional responsibilities for fire safety.

Throughout my education and my degree, I never expected to end up in health and safety, but I really enjoy what I do, and I’ve met some fantastic professionals as part of my job. I find the work that I do interesting, and risk assessment suits my personality well.

I write the vast majority of the news articles on the ACT website, so an additional part of my job is researching and writing articles like these on all sorts of topics!


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