You are important, you know you are! As a work health and safety officer, you can do a job which matters, one which makes a difference to other people. If you are looking for a job where no day will be the same, you enjoy working with people, you pay attention to detail and you are full of good ideas. Then, becoming a work health and safety officer (WHSO) could be your dream job.
WHSO’s involve themself with people and places to develop and enforce safety procedures and habits to keep people safe at work. You get involved in developing policies, programs and implementing those plans. Your sole aim at work is to raise awareness of hazards and reduce the risk people face while at work. That means you are the one protecting and upholding the rights of workers. However, you don’t stop there because you also take into consideration and protect members of the public. Perhaps they enter the spaces you are in charge of, or use products from your company. You oversee staff training, educating people on safe procedures and make sure they use ergonomics. If there are any staff members who have sustained injuries you help them to return to work.
If you are keen on making a difference over your lifetime and you have people skills with a cool head. Then don’t hesitate and check out the steps you need to take to become a work health and safety officer.
Step one: Find a government approved course
To become a WHSO in Australia you must take a government approved course. Your course will teach you everything to know about the workplace health and safety act. Without this knowledge, you will not find a job. There are different courses available across the country and they will give you the best opportunity to secure work in this field in the future.
Step two: Apply for your first job
Once you have gained your qualifications (well done you) you can begin to look for work. At the moment there is growing demand in the work health and safety sector so now is the perfect time to launch yourself into the industry. When applying for vacancies make sure you tailor your resume and cover letter to each application.
Step three: Gain experience
Have you landed your first role? Great! Now, it is important to take some time and gain valuable experience. The job you are doing is very important and any experience you attain over time is invaluable. As you work and learn and grow you can then begin to think about career progression.
Step four: Consider a specialisation
The work health and safety arena has a lot of opportunities and room for specialisation. As well as the general specialisations you can pursue, you can also consider specialising within a specific industry.
Hazardous materials/ dangerous goods safety officer
Across different industries in Australia businesses use hazardous materials or dangerous goods. How they handle those dangerous materials is of vital importance. Workers and members of the public are at risk exposure when they use careless procedures. You will track, supervise and review how the materials get handled to ensure the safest conditions for all. You get involved with the transport, production, and disposal. In short, any point when a business is handling hazardous materials you have a role to play.
Industrial hygienist/ Occupational hygienist
If you are the top in your science class, and a bit of a chemistry whizz, then this role will make an interesting specialisation for you. Working with chemical and biological substances which present a risk to the people working with, or coming into contact with them. You use your chemistry knowledge and scientific equipment to investigate. Then, you play a part in introducing and monitoring safe handling practices of the said substances.
Occupational health and safety trainer
Whatever role you take on as a WHSO you will get involved with training. Once you have relevant experience you can progress your career. You could specialise in training management and employees. In this important role, you become the educator visiting different workplaces. Teaching people about hazards, risks and how to keep themselves safe at work. A great choice of specialisation for people orientated WHSO’s.
Health and Safety Officer Responsibilities
As a WHSO you will take responsibility for a wide variety of tasks, expect every day to be different. The over-arching goal is to develop a culture within the workplace to put the health and safety of people first. To achieve this goal you carry out inspections, train appropriate people, track workplace goings-on, and think of ways to improve the status quo. You may find yourself checking and controlling hazards like fumes, chemicals, or explosives. Perhaps you will even play role in firefighting, or first aid if an accident or emergency foes take place. Also, you may be called on to help injured workers recuperate and return to work (what a star!).
- Creating policies which keep employees safe at work
- Ensuring employees follow occupational health and safety procedures
- Inspecting workplaces for hazards and potential risks
- Removing toxic materials from the workplace
Skills for Success
If you are a passionate individual who pays attention to details, and would like to work with people you should find the role as a WHSO will suit you well. If you have good communication and interpersonal skills, this is perfect. These skills are very important because you interact with people on a daily basis. As you motivate them to make behaviour changes. You will need to build up a solid knowledge of workplace health and safety legislation so this informs your daily work. Good organisation skills will be of value, as well as speaking skills.
Skills and attributes
- People skills to convince, motivate and teach
- A genuine desire to help your community stay safe
- A diplomatic approach
- Analytical approach to problem-solving
- Able to use your initiative
- Good with facts and information to keep up with legislation
- Can apply information and facts to real-world scenarios
What do Work Health and Safety Officers earn in Australia?
In Australia, WHSO earns a median wage of $84,516 per year. This varies according to a number of factors, such as industry, and is intended as a reference only, from Payscale 05/’18