What is Health Safety and Environment?
Health Safety and Environment (HSE or EHS) is the department in a company or an organization tasked with ensuring that the work done by the company does not cause undue environmental damage, put the workers’ health and safety at high risk, complies with applicable legislation, and follows best practices.
‘HSE’ management aims to prevent and reduce accidents, emergencies, and health issues at work, along with any environmental damage that could result from work practices.
Managing the risk to people and the environment is a very important part of long-term, sustainable business success. It helps companies retain employees, optimise productivity and to meet client expectations.
Why would you be interested in it?
Firstly, look at the ‘Why’. Why are you wanting to get into the HSE market by applying to be a Health, Safety and Environment Officer or a similar associated position? Is it for the money?
The reality is that many do go into this area of work due to the attractive salaries on offer. Hopefully this isn’t your primary motivator, as that’s not a good reason to start in any career and will unlikely lead you toward happiness!
If you are seriously considering going in the direction of applying for a Health and Safety position, I wanted to share some thoughts & useful information to help you along the way.
For myself, I have always had an interest in the protection of people and our environment. Since childhood, I have been captivated by the interconnection of human health and the state of our natural environment.
My personal experience has developed through a variety of roles, some where Health, Safety and Environment only made up a part of the responsibility. Depending on the size of the business, this can be a good thing.
The thing that strikes me as an HSE professional, for many, it is a vocation.
You are a steward for the protection of people and the environment. We are equally affected by health, safety and environmental issues within the workplace as we are outside of it.
If you don’t already, it may help for you to start thinking about how HSE affects what you are doing right now.
If you want to build a successful HSE career, its time to embrace that mindset.
Who would want to work in Health Safety and Environment!?
Well, you may be surprised. Let’s not beat around the bush, there is some competition. Don’t be afraid, competition is good. It means there is a market!
Lots of people have went into the career path from many different directions and previous careers. This leads some naysayers to argue that it is simply a fallback or ‘second’ career choice.
I would dispute that strongly….
5 key reasons Why people want to work in Health Safety & Environment
- People can pick up relevant experience along their career path. If they enjoy the HSE aspect of their work, it makes sense to transition to be a full-time Health and Safety Officer.
- There is a very strong business case for it, all companies require competent advice. This is a legal requirement and the consequences of non-compliance can be severe for individuals and companies.
- It is relatively well-rewarded with growth opportunity & health and safety jobs are plentiful. As the risk-profile of an industry increases, the rewards increase proportionately.
- Defined career path; you can go from being a Health and Safety Officer to an Advisor, Manager & then even Director or Independent Consultant.
- Lastly and perhaps most importantly – it gives you the opportunity to positively impact the working lives and health of people and the local environment.
With this in mind, it is important for you to recognise where you have had to apply H&S skills in previous roles. This might not be completely obvious to begin with, but when identified, it can help you unlock your HSE career potential.
11 Strategies to break into the HSE sector…
Remember, everyone has to start somewhere. Here’s some ideas on how to get moving in the right direction.
1. Consider Volunteering
You may not want to hear it, but you may have to give your time for free. For example, many organisations run charity events were they need stewards to help organise and control large numbers of attendees.
Small companies in your area may be in need of a helping when implementing management systems, why don’t you offer some of your time? Being proactive with these types of role can look good on your CV.
2. Think outside the Box
You may need to start thinking outside of the norm. For example, it is quite easy to get paid roles with event management companies which require stewarding for music events and so forth.
The responsibility to ensure the safety of the public attending these events can be valuable experience. You may also be able to get some extra training as part of your role if you use your initiative.
3. Get a Mentor
Have you thought about shadowing or assisting an HSE Manager? Larger companies may offer a paid or unpaid internship.
Contact HSE managers & ask them are they interested in taking on an intern to help with menial/administrative duties or specific programmes/projects. This could really open doors.
You can do this via Linkedin, make sure to check out our post ‘How to grow your career using Linkedin!’
4. Become a Trainer
Have you ever delivered training e.g. inductions etc? If yes, great, these are transferable skills. Much of HSE is based around co-ordination and provision of training.
If not, no problem, consider doing a training qualification such as Train the Trainer. This should help give you the confidence to deliver content to an audience. It will also be attractive to potential employers.
5. Engage your HSE network
Get involved with local professional e.g. contact your local IOSH or IEMA branch, start networking and getting your name out there. In many places, recruiters will strongly preference employing people that they have been referred to them.
There is always lots of administrative work around organising events, meetings and seminars. This is a great way to demonstrate that you are deserving of your first HSE position. Start building your network on Linkedin by searching for relevant professionals in your field/location and request to connect with them!
Also, you could reach out to companies who have current job opportunities to work in health safety and environment. If you are brave enough, you might want to offer your services for free for short period of time to demonstrate your enthusiasm for the profession.
6. Join the Safeti community!
This may be your ace in the hole. If you join our growing network of professionals, you will get access to a wealth of knowledge, get introduced to the latest concepts and thinking in the space, and be able to network with experts. You can join our community here.
You can start learning for FREE by tuning in to the Safeti School and the Safeti Podcast, where we share knowledge and discuss trends in the Health Safety and Environment market. Click on the image below to see some of our latest content!
7. Use your Existing Job
One thing to remember is that it may be much easier to gain experience as part of an existing role initially. Then you can graduate to a full-time HSE role afterwards. Does your current job offer any opportunity to take on H&S responsibilities?
For example, if your company needs support with risk assessments, needs a fire warden or first aider, or requires regular internal inspections done. Put your hand up!!
This type of stuff is a great start and you will be surprised how thankful your employer will be as people often don’t want to take on the extra responsibility without lots of reward.
The best place to start is often with short courses, such as those focusing on key aspects of risk in the relevant work setting. Take a look at the introductory courses available from providers such as IOSH, ROSPA and CITB.
For those seeking to progress to a full-time HSE position, it is very likely that you will need at least a Level 3 Qualification, such as the NEBOSH Certificate . Alternatively, you may consider NCRQ or vocational NVQ qualifications. Check out our comparitive post on NEBOSH or NCRQ here.
The table below gives a good overview of the options at this level (courtesy of NCRQ website)
8. Test the Water
There are many training organisations who deliver health, safety & environmental courses. A simple google search for your local area should point you in the right direction. Make sure that the provider and the relevant course is Certified by an appropriate body e.g. IOSH, City & Guilds, British Safety Council, before taking the plunge.
For you, it should be about the long game. The time devoted and experience gained now will pay dividends for you in the future. If you really want to build a career in ‘Health Safety and Environment’, you need to show you are serious about it.
Don’t let small opportunities for progression pass you by. Ultimately, these may be the deciding factor between you and another candidate.
9. Demonstrate your Experience
Lots of people are trying to make their way into an HSE career but despite having qualifications, are not being successful in interviews. Does this sound like you? Many others do not get even to the interview stage.
This suggests that your CV does not stand out amongst the crowd. An unattractive resume can seriously hamper any chance you have of progressing to a full-time Health and Safety Officer role. Take a look at our CV template to give you an idea of where to start.
You have to ask yourself some important questions. The most important question you have to answer effectively is ‘Can you demonstrate that you have sufficient Health & Safety experience?’ This question strikes fear into the hearts of many, regardless of what industry you are in. You are not alone. How do we overcome it?
10. Give yourself Credit!
You are maybe more skilled than you might think….
Many folks don’t realise how much health safety and environment experience they already have from jobs they have done in the past. Have you ever worked in an industry with significant risks e.g. Construction, engineering, agriculture, trades etc.? If so, do you have strong knowledge about HSE in that specific industry?
Think back, write down every job you have ever done and look it up now on a job website like indeed.com. You will most likely see that some of your previous roles have required H&S responsibilities.
You need to identify these skills, update your knowledge and use them to your advantage. Also, use the HSE website to refresh your awareness of key issues within any industry which you have worked, or intend to work.
11. Persistence is Key
As with anything in life, if you do not persist, you will not succeed. Take each positive step as a little victory and don’t forget to reward yourself.
Failure can be awesome, don’t let it be a negative. Use any failures as your motivation, as a means to improve. Ensure to reach out to those with experience for help where you can get it. Anyone who has ever been successful has failed more than once along their journey.
The important part is how you respond.
Remember, any course that you complete or experience you gain is an investment in your personal human capital. It will be an improvement in your knowledge and expertise. You will continue to reap the dividends as you progress your HSE career.
Before you know it, you will be offered your first Health and Safety Officer role and will be on the route to bigger and better things.
More free resources available from Safeti
For some unique insight the HSE Recruitment market, check out our Safeti Podcast episode on ‘How to progress your H&S career’ with Health, Safety and Environment Recruitment Manager Jack Cornick.
Click on the link below to listen!
Please tell us your thoughts below, maybe we can help you take the next step!