The most important person in any company is not the CEO or the managing director, it’s the person responsible for the health and safety of all the employees.
No matter what else we do at work, the main priority is to keep safe and well. That’s why a health and safety executive officer or manger is so important.
The evolution of the health and safety executive
Some years back, the role of the health and safety manager was very functional. They were there to ensure the rules were followed without having to take on long-term responsibility for accident prevention and safety. They would often carry out this role as a subsidiary to their main task with the company or organisation.
However, these days, the role is increasingly important and companies are looking to employ a specialist in the field who has experience of managing health and safety policy. Health and safety professionals need to be good communicators who can ‘sell’ the benefits of a strong health and safety policy to the rest of the staff team.
Companies are beginning to understand the long-term benefits of a fit and healthy workforce – one who feels valued and secure in their work. Of course, the good practice should be enforced and encouraged from the top down, so the role of the health and safety manger involves also communicating with those who call the shots.
So what exactly are the responsibilities of a health and safety manager or executive officer? As well as routine inspections and safety checks they also need to investigate complaints within a company. They need to ensure compliance with legislation and make sure employers are treating their staff in accordance with the law.
A health and safety manager will be required to advise on technical and legal issues and have a firm grasp of the relevant areas. This may involve working with other staff, such as scientists and lab professionals, as well as building case files to present in internal and external cases.
In order to practice successfully you should ideally have a qualification of BSc of MSc in environmental health or a related field. However, there is also a lot to be said for experience and the lack of an official qualification should not stop those interested in the position working their way up.
As well as an in depth knowledge of your chosen field, you should also possess a number of key skills to use in everyday working practice. This includes an ability to keep calm in what may be very stressful situations. As well as the aforementioned communication skills, you should also be able to think on your feet and resolve complex and dangerous situations.
It is not a job that is suited to everyone but those with a calling and desire to keep people safe at work often make great health and safety managers. With more companies requiring the services of health and safety managers, now could be a very good time to get into the profession.