How to start a career in Work Health and Safety
Starting in the Work Health and Safety field can often begin at the job you may already have. Checking in to see what opportunities are on offer to assist with your workplace’s WHS can be an ideal first step in your Health and Safety career. It allows you to learn about the roles and responsibilities of a WHS officer. Positions available may be working as a Work Health and Safety Representative, taking part in a WHS committee or even shadowing another employee to learn more about their role.
Work Health and Safety career pathways
There are many pathways to a career in Work Health and Safety. While prior experience is always beneficial, a well-rounded Diploma or Certificate IV qualification will equip you with the skills needed to begin your career, no matter what your work history may be.
Formal education options are:
Diploma of Work Health and Safety
The most straightforward pathway to a Work Health and Safety career is completing a Diploma of Work Health and Safety (BSB51319). The well-rounded degree offers a range of units such as Lead WHS Risk Management, Manage Implementation of Emergency Procedures and Communicate with Influence. You’ll learn about effective risk management and how to deal with both internal and external stakeholders.
71% of managers in the WHS industry hold at least a diploma qualification, making this degree the perfect choice to kick-off a long and rewarding career.
Note: There are a series of pre-requisites required for undertaking the Diploma of Work Health & Safety (BSB51319). For more information on these requirements click here.
The Best Pathway to a Career in Work Health and Safety
Certificate IV in Work Health and Safety
An alternative to the Diploma of Work Health and Safety is a Certificate IV in Work Health and Safety (BSB41419).
This is an ideal choice for those entering the degree with no relevant experience or who are looking for a qualification that gives them complete insight into the WHS industry. There are plenty of opportunities to progress to the Diploma qualification in the future if further study is desired. The Certificate IV is also a budget-friendly option if you are not yet ready to change careers but are potentially looking to take advantage of the growing opportunities of the WHS industry.
People with experience in hospitality, supply chain management, retail and construction, and the like are often well placed for rewarding careers in Work Health and Safety.
More specifically, experience as a health and safety representative is an ideal entry point into future roles.
What does a career in Work Health and Safety look like?
A career in WHS is a smart and rewarding choice with a variety of career progression opportunities and a range of industries in which to work.
A typical career lifecycle and salary expectations in WHS may look like the following:
Health and Safety Representative
Working in a health and safety representative role is often the first step into a WHS career. A health and safety representative is an existing employee who represents the business in matters that relate to WHS. To become a Health and Safety Representative, you need to complete a compulsory five-day training, however it is wise to look at completing either the Certificate IV or Diploma when considering a career move in this direction. Salaries for this role are aligned with the current title of the employee.
A salary increase is usually offered to employees who take on this extra responsibility in addition to their usual duties.
Work Health and Safety Advisor
A Work Health and Safety Advisor is an employee whose specific role is to advise the employer on WHS issues. They identify potential risks in the business, manage safety issues, train staff and communicate with people both inside and outside the company.
Salaries for this role can vary significantly based on the industry and the level of risk involved. For example, a WHS Advisor in mining may earn more than one in retail due to the nature of work carried out in those industries.
The average salary for those working as a Work Health and Safety Advisor is approximately $100,352.
What Qualifications and Skills Do You Need to be a Health and Safety Officer?
Work Health and Safety Manager
A Work Health and Safety Manager’s role is to manage a business’s WHS requirements on behalf of an employer. More specifically, they ensure that the workplace complies with the relevant laws regarding health and safety.
This role requires a higher level of technical knowledge and responsibility than a Work Health and Safety Advisor.
Salaries do vary dependent on the industry, with earnings in the range of $200,000 – $500,000+.
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Why pursue a career in Work Health and Safety?
The workplace health and safety industry is currently experiencing rapid growth, with an increased number of business sectors seeking suitably qualified health and safety professionals.
Almost all businesses need WHS professionals, meaning you can work in a wide choice of industries, tailoring your career to meet your interests or previous experience. Some of the common industries that employ WHS professionals include:
- Supply Chain Management
- Transport and Logistics
- Agriculture and Farming
In Australia, over 30,600 professionals will be employed in the WHS industry by 2022. The industry is dependant on skills that make it protected from the increase in automated roles. Your WHS career will be remunerated well, with a large range of leadership opportunities on offer as your career progresses.