A Professional’s Journey from Zero to Health and Safety Hero
Health & Safety is a continuously growing sector with more companies taking its implementation and management seriously.
The optimist in me would like to think it is growing due to a moral concern about the safety of others and this is true in many cases, but it’s also true that Health & Safety is managed to avoid the costs and penalties should anything go wrong. Either way, the important thing is that workers are being protected.
With that said, you might ask; how do you go about becoming involved in Health & Safety?
Getting Started in Health and Safety
It could be one of those days when you are not paying attention, everyone else has stepped back and you are left at the front with the boss smiling and congratulating you on volunteering.
It could slowly sneak up on you, whereby you have been given additional tasks gradually until one day you realise you have taken on a fully fledged Health & Safety role.
Or there are even those of us who decide this is what we want to do early on and progress forward with this goal in mind at every turn.
Regardless of whether it is a desire of yours or a new direction within your company, the starting point will be qualifications.
My personal journey started off with the very basics. I had just graduated from university and covered a module in my final year concerning disaster management which touched on Health & Safety; I was hooked. As a result, when an advert came through for summer school in my area, the health and risk management course caught my eye. The course was only one day but it sparked something in me that made me want to continue down this path, the only question was where to go next.
I decided I wanted a job in this field so I took out the local Yellow Pages book (yes it did used to be in book format) and sent off a letter and CV to all the companies listed under Health & Safety.
I received numerous letters thanking me for my CV but was informed that ‘unfortunately on this occasion we do not have any job vacancies’. This was disheartening to say the least, so what else could I do?
Getting Noticed and NEBOSH Qualified
The question remains, “how do you get into health and safety as a profession?”
Following this challenging start I signed up with recruitment agencies that specialised in my field and after a couple of weeks I had a couple of interviews. Fortunately one Health & Safety company was willing to take a chance on me.
I had my foot in the door as an apprentice, the next step was becoming professionally qualified to further my new career. Once my NEBOSH National General certificate qualification was completed and I had some more experience and knowledge, progressing to a consultant role.
My consultancy work allowed me to successfully provide evidence for the old NVQ4 and led to GradIOSH membership. After three long CPD years I finally reached CMIOSH status and here I am today; still in the field, updating my knowledge constantly and helping guide future Health & Safety professionals through their studies.
As with many jobs it can initially be difficult finding work in this field, but now there are more options available to potential Health & Safety experts, especially with the support of a recognised qualification:
• Health & Safety magazines include job adverts so you can see what qualifications are required and focus on pursuing the ones which will further your career.
• Recruitment agencies can be a useful resource for finding jobs which may not be advertised openly.
• Health & Safety forums can allow you to get in touch with other people in this field who may have advice, guidance or even know of job vacancies.
• Yellow Pages in the UK – or other directory books elsewhere – can provide a list of H&S companies in your area that you can send your CV off to.
• Experience can be gained from volunteer work in a relevant role.
• Shadowing is a good method of gaining experience. Realistically book knowledge only gets you so far, so if there is a Health & Safety team in your current company or you know someone in the field you could follow them during their daily duties to experience H&S in the real world. Just ensure you have permission from their bosses to be there first.
This is by no means an exhaustive list but it should give a good start for those looking to get their foot in the door.
However you become involved in Health & Safety, congratulate yourself as it is not an easy job. Despite the fact these roles are concerned with employee wellbeing, people don’t always appreciate it or your efforts but ensuring others go home in one piece is definitely a worthwhile job.
So a big thank you to all the Health & Safety heroes keeping everyone safe and the one’s just starting out! Keep up the good job!
For anyone wishing to make a change to their career or expand on their existing health and safety knowledge, I’d recommend reading our health & safety career tips for 2018 blog article for up to date advice.