Health and safety officers are responsible for organising the health and safety systems within an organisation. Their responsibilities include identifying daily risks, implementing ongoing systems for recurring risks, ensuring compliance with industry standards, returning people to work after an injury, and managing staff in the interest of increasing everyone’s safety and overall wellbeing in the workplace.
9 Core professional skills to succeed in health and safety
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 need to be taken to keep everyone safe in the workplace. You will need to stay current with industry compliance standards and optimise your company’s sustainable output by continuously questioning what you can do to improve.
2. Research skills
As mentioned above, it is paramount to any health and safety officer role that the business is remaining compliant with rules and regulations applicable to the company and its operation. Strong research skills will ensure success in this area and allow you to network and learn with other health and safety officers. 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. Research skills are essential to the job.
3. Communication/instructional skills
Social interaction with people at all levels of an organisation can make this job appealing if you are a confident communicator or enjoy helping others. Communication and instruction skills are a must as you will need to write articulate instructions for safe workplace practices. You may also need to hold workshops for workers on routine practice and keep their attention in construction or factory settings. Work health and safety officers can also be responsible for organising and working with teams at frequent times throughout the year. The ability to collaborate professionally with others is essential.
4. Critical thinking
Following best practice in each problem that you encounter will place you in a strong position to dodge and manage obstacles. 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 action needed. No two incidents are the same, so the ability to comprehensively evaluate each new issue is a valuable feather in your cap.
5. An analytical mind
Depending on the industry you are working in, you may need to visit multiple sites and travel between offices or factories. 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. It is the responsibility of Work Health and Safety Officers to assess performance and create an optimal environment for continuous improvement.
Jobs like Safety Officers can be enjoyable because you get to put yourself in other people’s shoes and imagine their perspective on the kind of risks they will encounter day-to-day. You can enjoy the ‘out of office’ freedom as you visit different sites, research new methods or take time away from the office to think outside the box. 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, there are very few jobs that won’t require digital literacy, and a Health and Safety Officer is no exception. 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 can also often mean you feel like you have to be in two places at once, and using video conferencing while on the road can solve this problem. Strong digital literacy, paired with keen communication, will reward you with the satisfaction that you’re keeping everyone in your workplace accounted for and safe.
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 can think objectively about each risk or system you assess or design. Quality diploma level education and an attitude of self-improvement are essential to success. As is finding a career mentor who you can bounce your thoughts and feelings off when you have had a tough day or to remind you of what you are doing well.
9. Diploma level WHS qualification
On a practical level, gaining a qualification in work health and safety will build a substantial knowledge base and offer you well-developed skills in a wide variety of work health safety contexts. When considering your career path, a diploma will progress your career towards a managerial or supervisor level. Work health and safety is a career that will equip you with valuable life knowledge you can transfer to other senior roles such as Project Manager, Chief Operating Officer, or to start your own business.
To begin with, you want a CV that will open doors, by reflecting that you are a hardworking, diligent, and studious person who is willing to do what it takes. A quality online diploma course like the Diploma of Work Health & Safety (BSB51319) will offer case studies where you analyse complex situations and apply real-world solutions. You will receive mentoring from learning professionals in the field and form a solid network with other people who are doing the same course. This foundation will allow you to be a valuable cog within your organisation who has a clear impact on people’s lives.