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Why choose occupational health and safety as a career

Do you want a job where you make a real difference? Then you should consider a career in health and safety. It’s a highly rewarding profession that involves supporting health and wellbeing and keeping workers safe so they can return home to their loved ones. You could even save lives.

Forget the stereotypes – it’s not just about clipboards and hi-vis jackets. Health and safety professionals are fundamental to modern businesses and play a key part in preventing workplace injuries, ill-health and deaths by managing the day-to-day risks that workers face. They help organisations stay legally compliant as well as drive business processes and culture to create a sustainable, healthy and productive workforce.

The benefits of a career in health and safety

  • Job satisfaction and tangible outputs – you can make a positive difference to people’s lives, literally.
  • It’s a growing profession – businesses and organisations are investing more in occupational safety and health (OSH), and this has become even more of a priority since the start of the global pandemic.
  • It offers a fantastic route into business management – health and safety professionals are classed as business professionals.
  • The basic principles of health and safety are easy to understand – including concepts such as risk assessments and hierarchy of control.
  • It’s never dull! A career in health and safety will present new challenges daily.
  • You will learn new skills – most health and safety professionals will have certain specialisms, based on the industry they are in. This can lead to developmental and training opportunities.
  • It’s a global profession, offering opportunities to work all over the world across any industry.

What makes a good health and safety professional?

  • Great communication skills – an empathetic and intuitive ‘people person’ able to understand the needs of a diverse group of workers, from entry level to senior management.
  • Analytical and proactive approach with attention to detail – risk assessments and identifying hazards are at the core of OSH.
  • The drive to learn. OSH professionals face many different challenges, so be prepared for a lifetime of learning new skills.
  • There are globally accepted qualifications, such as an accredited certificate in health and safety, but most professionals will strive for a degree-level qualification.
  • Understanding how people think and feel. Health and safety professionals need to communicate and engage with people at all levels of an organisation, from frontline workers to CEOs.
  • Understanding how businesses work. The health and safety management role incorporates keeping workers healthy and safe, while seamlessly safeguarding the business and helping keep it profitable.

How to start a career in health and safety

Whether it’s your first choice, or you are looking to change careers, there are multiple routes into OSH. These vary globally, so do check the local labour market information in your country for specifics.

  1. Some people start their journey straight from school/college and study for a qualification. This could be a university degree or an apprenticeship. These qualifications often provide opportunities for hands-on experience alongside formal study. You can view a list of IOSH-accredited qualifications and filter to your country of interest.
  2. Your current workplace might be your first step towards a career in health and safety. Some professionals start doing safety and health tasks as part of a wider role and take awareness-level courses (like Working Safely or Managing Safely) to support them. From there, many people gain additional experience and qualifications, and develop into a dedicated OSH professional. You might not even have specific OSH responsibilities in your current role, but if you have the right skillset and attitude, you can undertake training to build your confidence and knowledge
  3. Most professionals will start as a health and safety officer or co-ordinator, entry-level roles that involve enforcing existing rules and standards, but also providing hands-on advice to management and workers on the best way of managing risks. These roles will help you develop your experience and gain qualifications to progress to a health and safety adviser, manager or even a director.

Who are IOSH and how can they support me?

The Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH) is the world’s leading chartered professional body for people responsible for safety and health in the workplace, with more than 47,000 members in over 130 countries.

IOSH can give you the support and guidance you need to help you achieve your goals, whether you’re a new or aspiring practitioner or a seasoned professional. Read more about membership and the wide range of benefits on offer.

If you’re a student, aged 35 or under, or new to OSH, you’ll automatically be a member of the IOSH Future Leaders Community, which offers a range of specially developed content to help you get to the next level.

View Arjun’s video to find out about his health and safety journey and why he’s staying with IOSH.

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