What does a health and safety officer do? (Including skills)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 5 September 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Health and safety officers (HSOs) are responsible for reducing the risk of accidents and work-related injuries in the workplace. Their duties typically involve developing health and safety (H&S) policies and procedures to mitigate accidents and reporting mechanisms to investigate accidents. As of July 2022, there are various skills and qualifications that can help you to become an HSO and uphold the standards of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 and The Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992. In this article, we explain what HSOs are and describe their common duties, salaries, important skills, typical employers and standard qualifications.

What does a health and safety officer do?

Workplaces have a responsibility to ensure the safety of their employees at work. To achieve this, organisations often hire a health and safety officer to develop and implement robust policies for staff to adhere to. Policies may include guidance on using specialised machinery, training on H&S practices and instructions for responding to someone deviating from the H&S standards. HSOs or contracted experts then organise and lead training sessions to help organisations put these policies into effect.

Organisations generally task HSOs with putting procedures in place to mitigate risks or implement procedures on how to report and investigate situations when something goes wrong. When accidents occur or employees don't follow policies and procedures, it's useful to have a clear reporting procedure to learn from the issue and prevent it from happening again. Depending on the risks of the working environment, workplaces may assign H&S training and responsibilities to staff alongside their main role. In more complex environments, an HSO may undergo thorough training and need specific qualifications.

Related: The importance of health and safety at work (with tips)

Examples of health and safety officer skills

To be a successful HSO, there are certain skills that can help you to execute your role to a high standard. Employers may look for someone with a calm, assertive and patient demeanour when explaining unfamiliar terms and practices to staff. Below are some skills which may be useful:

1. Communication skills

Strong communication is a beneficial skill in most jobs and aspects of life. As an HSO, being a strong communicator can allow you to inform employees of H&S practices and risks in training or meetings. Communication skills can range from verbal to written and are beneficial when delivering training, writing reports or informing the team of health and safety protocols, issues or updates.

Related: 10 communication techniques to help you in the workplace

2. H&S knowledge

When training to become a health and safety practitioner, it is important to gain knowledge through training and wide research on the topic. Prior health and safety training and qualifications can enable officers to create robust policies to confidently make staff aware of H&S protocols and apply logic to real situations.

3. Problem-solving

Resolving issues and finding ways to overcome barriers that could potentially be health and safety risks requires problem-solving skills. Spotting an issue before it becomes a problem to mitigate potential breaches is also highly beneficial. Proactive thinking and a positive attitude can permit HSOs to find ways to safely execute the organisation's activities while complying with and upholding safe practices.

Related: Problem-solving skills: definitions and examples

4. Attention to detail

Strong attention to detail helps HSOs find problems in complex areas that others may not foresee and ensure a company is following the finer details of all regulations. When reporting incidents, it's important that an accurate account is noted for future reference. Strong attention to detail can also help mitigate risks and breaches when adhering to complex policies.

Related: What is a near miss? Definition and workplace safety tips

5. Organisation skills

Strong organisational skills are beneficial in the workplace, especially when managing the safety of various teams and creating a safe working environment for all. Being organised enables HSOs to create a safer working environment whereby they can identify, mitigate and lessen risks before problems arise. It's also beneficial for officers to maintain an organised log of incidents, records and policies for ease of access.

6. Report writing skills

Officers often have to report on problems that arise. Having the skills to craft well-written documents allow HSOs to accurately track and report on incidents to learn from them and create detailed accounts to escalate and resolve issues. Report writing can be a substantial part of the job, depending on the role and sector.

7. IT literacy

Being able to conduct training, create captivating documents and contact staff regarding updates and required training means strong IT skills are useful. Familiarity with various IT applications permits HSOs to update policies and send out digital and hard copies of H&S information to all staff. IT literacy can be gained through training and then adapted to suit the various programmes or applications used by the company.

Related: What is computer literacy and how to improve it in 6 steps

8. Interpersonal skills

Being able to communicate and build a strong report with the entire team can enable HSOs to assist and liaise with staff at all levels is beneficial. Having a willingness to work with everyone to ensure their well-being in the workplace is a vital component of the job.

9. Commitment to continuous learning

As with many disciplines, technology and processes can evolve generating new protocols to abide by. It is important to stay up-to-date with the latest legislation and training to ensure staff receive relevant training and information. Willingness to continually improve and learn allows HSOs to keep up to date with current H&S legislation and national policies.

Related: How to become a health and safety inspector in 6 steps

Health and safety officer duties and skills in the workplace

Depending on the organisation and the H&S risks of the daily operations in the workplace, typical day-to-day duties of HSOs may include:

  • Investigating H&S complaints: Most organisations have a mandated process for logging and assessing complaints so an HSO can assess and investigate them. This allows the HSO to examine relevant parties or equipment to resolve the complaint.

  • Completing risk assessments and site inspections: An HSO completes these before staff use the premises or equipment that may carry risks. Risk assessments and site inspections are a good way to mitigate potential areas of concern and log that an HSO has declared the site H&S compliant.

  • Facilitating H&S training courses and meetings: This virtual or in-person training is an important component of any workplace and usually makes up part of H&S policies and procedures. Equipping staff with adequate training resources can significantly reduce the risk of H&S breaches and accidents.

  • Identifying potential hazards: This can help to reduce the risks of H&S breaches. HSOs should pre-empt problems before they arise by looking at potential issues.

  • Writing reports and tracking incidents: Documentation is an important task for HSOs, as it allows organisations to track incidents and determine whether H&S measures are adequate to keep risks and accidents to a minimum. Reports enable an organisation to learn from situations and implement robust policies to stop accidents from reoccurring.

  • Testing equipment and ensuring it's safe to use: It's the duty of any organisation to offer a safe working environment for all staff to adhere to national H&S at work regulations. HSOs help ensures staff have suitable and safe resources to do their job and, if necessary, manage or safely dismantle faulty equipment to ensure staff safety.

  • Determining ways of reducing risks: HSOs can help an organisation adhere to the Health and Safety at Work Act. As with many other disciplines, researching and finding ways to improve and raise standards constantly is beneficial for the continuous improvement of working environments.

  • On-boarding new staff with H&S training: This is a mandatory part of any new joiner activities. As an HSO, you can facilitate staff alignment on H&S culture and protocol through practical or virtual training platforms that showcase real-life scenarios and administer a test at the end.

  • Liaising with external H&S authorities (including government bodies): Showing proof of up-to-date H&S training, procedures and policies to the authorities annually is a common legal requirement for organisations. Inspectors may also randomly visit organisations to ensure the working environment is fit for the purpose.

  • Updating H&S policies: Completing this regularly and when any changes occur in an organisation helps to ensure the organisation consistently meets local and national authority standards. For example, if an HSO focal point changes, it's important that the policy reflects the change and that staff know the new focal point to contact in the event of a safety breach.

Related: Health and safety responsibilities for employees (with tips)

Qualifications for your CV

To become an HSO, consider attaining H&S qualifications before applying for a role or gaining on-the-job training while studying part-time. Many of these roles require a degree qualification from an accredited higher educational body or university, and prior work experience can benefit. You may wish to take the NEBOSH General Certificate in Occupational Health and Safety course. If you're considering HSO roles within construction, you may consider the CITB online and in-person courses.

Please note that none of the companies, institutions or organisations mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed.

Related:

  • How to write an effective health and safety officer CV


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