How To Get Started in Your Work Health Safety Career


A work health and safety (WHS) officer implements and improves safety systems within an organisation. They identify risks and hazards and put processes and controls in place to remove, mitigate or reduce risks to employees. They also earn an average salary of $73,000 per annum. If you use this role as a stepping stone, however, you could be earning $137,000 a year as a WHS manager. 

The demand for work health and safety officers is high, as almost all businesses need WHS professionals to ensure they are complying with legislation and best practices. 

If you want to become a work health and safety officer, here are some tips to start, some skills you can brush up on, and study pathways that will qualify you for success. 

Get involved with health and safety at work and home

Starting a career in work health and safety can begin where you are right now. 

  • Learn about the roles and responsibilities of a work health and safety officer and what a career in WHS looks like.
  • Help with your workplace’s WHS where you can. This could be filling in incident report forms, completing hazard and risk assessments, or shadowing a WHS employee.
  • Find voluntary opportunities where you can learn about work health and safety while giving back to your community. This can be anything from completing safety checks at your church or community centre to taking part in a WHS committee at your child’s school or kindergarten.
  • If you can’t practice at work or in a voluntary capacity, why not at home? Print out a hazard or incident report form and fill it in using your house and family members as a base.

Brush up on skills that will help you succeed in WHS

  1. Attention to detail. In the health and safety sector, one small oversight could put people at risk. Close attention to detail is crucial in grasping the steps that will keep everyone safe in the workplace. 
  2. Research. You will need to stay current with industry compliance standards and best practices. You will also need to be across compliance regulations relating to new workplace hazards, for example, a toxic chemical that has not previously been used on site. Strong research skills will ensure your success. 
  3. Communication. Communication and instructional skills are a necessity, as you will need to articulate instructions for safe workplace practices. You may also need to hold workshops for employees on routine practices and engage their attention to ensure learning outcomes. Work health and safety officers also collaborate with teams frequently throughout the year. 
  4. Critical thinking. Some issues or tasks may require more considered, critical thinking. As a work health and safety officer, it is your responsibility to take the first course of action after an incident occurs and deduce any potential causes, faults and actions needed. No two incidents are the same, so the ability to comprehensively evaluate each new issue is a valuable feather in your cap.
  5. Analysis. You will need to analyse data, reports and other documentation to assess the workplace performance of existing health and safety programs. Developing a naturally inquisitive outlook will allow you to look beyond the numbers and anticipate trends and patterns from the results. It will also help you offer critical advice to the people you are supervising. 
  6. Empathy. Work health and safety officers put themselves in other people’s shoes and imagine the kinds of risks they will encounter day-to-day. Developing and exercising emotional intelligence and empathy will help you across the varied roles you will need to play in the workplace. These include managing work-related psychological health and safety, managing WHS consultations, and coordinating rehabilitation and return-to-work programs.
  7. Digital literacy. These days, few jobs don’t require digital literacy. Proper email etiquette, online presentations and operating data analysis software are digital skills you will have to employ regularly. The nature of a WHS officer’s calendar makes  using video conferencing while on the road an ideal communication solution. 
  8. Confidence. The challenges in this career make it an incredibly rewarding one, as you directly influence and improve people’s lives by keeping them safe in the workplace. It does, however, mean that you will be required to make difficult decisions regarding safety, and in some instances, make tough choices to lead organisational change. Diligent self-belief in your skills and training is crucial to ensuring you think objectively about each risk or system you assess or design. 

To improve and strengthen these skills, you can check out online training videos or visit your local library for books and educational resources (some libraries also offer free access to LinkedIn Learning). You may also find value in networking with others and finding a mentor whom you can bounce your thoughts and feelings off. 

Your Career in Work Health and Safety

Do you want to learn more about work health and safety skills employers demand, emerging job roles and salaries, and recent industry insights? 

Discover your career in work health and safety. 


Get qualified with a work health and safety diploma or certificate

There are many pathways to a career as a work health and safety officer. 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. Most importantly, it will help you ensure compliance in the field. 

Let’s have a look at the options and see which pathway may be most beneficial for you.

Diploma of Work Health and Safety (BSB51319)

The most straightforward pathway to becoming a work health and safety officer is completing a Diploma of Work Health and Safety (BSB51319). It offers a range of units such as: 

  • Lead WHS Risk Management
  • Manage Implementation of Emergency Procedures
  • Communicate with Influence 

You’ll learn about effective risk management and how to deal with both internal and external stakeholders. This is ideal if you have some experience or wish to advance through a range of work health and safety positions and salaries and make a start in WHS sooner rather than later.

Certificate IV in Work Health and Safety (BSB41419)

Alternatively, you can study a Certificate IV in Work Health and Safety (BSB41419).

This is an ideal choice if you have no relevant experience. It’s also a budget-friendly option if you are not yet ready to change careers but wish to dip your toe in the water of the WHS industry. You’ll also have the opportunity to advance to the diploma afterward if you so choose.


Discover your career in work health and safety

Explore courses designed to help you take your career to the next level in work health and safety!

If you’re ready to take your career to the next level, a Diploma (BSB51319) or Certificate IV in Work Health and Safety (BSB41419) will make that happen.

View WHS qualifications