When it comes to a new career, it can be a daunting prospect to go into something you’re not entirely familiar with. There are so many new opportunities out there, so it’s important to do your research.
Why Health and Safety?
The health and safety profession is now more popular than ever. More and more people are entering the field to not only enjoy a long and satisfying career but to also make sure that at the end of a long day’s work, people get home safe and well; a well-rewarding job in more ways than one.
Injuries and ill health from current working conditions are costing the UK economy £14.9 billion. In addition to the direct costs of sick pay and loss of production, employers also face criminal prosecution (including fines and a prison sentence), claims for compensation, adverse publicity and a harm to reputation. This means it’s not only crucial for employers to pay particular attention to their health and safety practices from a moral point of view, it also makes good business sense.
With the pressure mounting on businesses to maintain a high health and safety performance, the door is open for health and safety professionals around the country to make a real impact in the workplace and enjoy a rich and rewarding career at the same time.
Career Potential and Job Roles
Workplace health and safety isn’t just relevant for high-risk industries like construction or oil and gas, it affects all areas of workplaces and occupations.
70% of people who take NEBOSH Certificate level qualifications are conducting their role where health and safety is not seen as the primary function, the range of people from all sectors emphasises the importance of health and safety management in the modern workplace. Being flexible about which sector you want to work in will give you greater opportunities in the health and safety field.
There are two natural job routes when working in health and safety; health and safety practitioner, and health and safety professional. Health and safety practitioners perform at a technical level, making sure that best practices and compliance are implemented at site-level. Health and safety professionals are responsible for health and safety strategy at an operational level.
Both routes require strong communication skills along with presentation, knowledge management, problem-solving and critical thinking.
Qualifications and Experience
As with any career, a good level of knowledge and experience is essential. You may already have a basic understanding of how to work well from a risk awareness course, such as IOSH working safely. However, to develop your career in the field, you’ll need to expand your skills and knowledge with an industry recognised qualification.
NEBOSH (National Examination Board in Occupational Safety and Health) qualifications are seen as the benchmark for any health and safety professional, attracting over 50,000 candidates globally each year.
The NEBOSH National General Certificate and NEBOSH International General Certificate are their most popular qualification. As level 3 qualifications, equivalent to UK A-levels, they provide a solid grounding for managing health and safety within the workplace and offer a clear route to higher-level qualifications, like the NEBOSH National Diploma.
Industry-specific qualifications are also available in the areas of construction, fire and risk management, oil and gas, and the environment.
NEBOSH qualifications can be taken in a classroom-based learning approach, or at home via online/distance learning. Whichever learning route you choose, the qualification you achieve at the end of the course will be the same.
Overall, 92% of health and safety job advertisements in 2016 called for some form of NEBOSH qualifications and/or membership of IOSH, so choosing the right qualification is essential.
NEBOSH qualifications are recognised by professional membership bodies including the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH), the Chartered Institution of Water and Environmental Management (CIWEM) and IEMA.
Becoming a member of a recognised professional body will help give you a head start on your career by demonstrating to potential employers a standard of competence, as well as keeping you up-to-date with any industry changes and best practice.
Working in health and safety isn’t just morally rewarding, the average top-end salary advertised in 2016 came in at £46,000, well above the UK national average. This increased £49,000 when candidates were required to hold a NEBOSH Diploma.
Working Outside the UK
If you work outside the UK find out more about the NEBOSH International General Certificate.
If you’re thinking about starting a career in health and safety, the NEBOSH General Certificate is a great place to start!
- NEBOSH Jobs Barometer 2016
- Key health and safety figures for Great Britain 2016/17
- OHS capability framework: a global framework for practice