Health and safety officer responsibilities (plus tips)
Updated 14 August 2023
A health and safety officer is responsible for ensuring that a business complies with health and safety regulations while advising employees and other managers in their efforts to maintain a safe and healthy workplace. This means that a health and safety officer's job can be varied and challenging as they ensure compliance with various complex regulations. Typically a health and safety officer has either a degree or vocational qualifications.
In this article, we look at what this role entails and what a health and safety officer’s primary responsibilities are, along with tips for professional development within the role.
What is a health and safety officer?
A health and safety officer is responsible for advising businesses on how to protect the health, safety and welfare of employees in the workplace. They identify hazards and carry out assessments of risk. They also monitor working conditions and the effective application of risk controls, including helping management to ensure that all employees follow the rules regarding safety and health.
Health and safety officers work in many industries, including construction, manufacturing, utilities and transportation, retail, logistics and leisure. Some companies may directly hire their own health and safety officers, while others hire them temporarily as a consultant.
What are health and safety officer responsibilities?
The key to understanding the role is to examine some of the main health and safety officer responsibilities. For example:
Conducting workplace inspections
Health and safety officers conduct workplace inspections to identify hazards that can harm people and observe the effectiveness of controls and safe ways of working. Officers tend to conduct these inspections regularly, often on a daily, weekly or monthly basis. The visit includes a walk-through of the entire facility, with the health and safety officer noting anything that might be a potential hazard, such as debris left on the floor, broken or malfunctioning equipment or electrical cords that aren't grounded properly. The health and safety officer observes how employees interact as this helps determine whether there is a safe system of work and culture.
Providing training and education about safe systems of work
A health and safety officer delivers training and education about safe systems of work so they can keep the company's employees safe and healthy. Health and safety officers educate employees on the hazards present and how to work safely to avoid being harmed or harming others.
Advising the company on how to be compliant with the relevant regulations
The health and safety officer provides management with advice on how to be compliant with health and safety legislation. This includes writing and maintaining the necessary documents and records that describe the company's safety management system. It includes conducting risk assessments, consulting with employees, developing risk controls, and providing education and training.
They are also responsible for carrying out equipment and workplace inspections and assisting with safety management system audits. Duties also include carrying out investigations into safety incidents and analysing them for any ideas of how controls can be better maintained or improved.
Conducting investigations into safety incidents
A health and safety officer investigates incidents to identify the causes of the problem and develop recommendations for how to better maintain existing controls or identify new ones. This can include recommendations for changes to equipment specification, procedures or processes, training content for employees and making changes to employee job descriptions.
Implementing policies related to health and safety
A health and safety officer advises management on how to implement company policies related to health and safety. They may be tasked with helping to develop new policies, including considering the safety responsibilities for the different employee and management roles in the organisation. They are responsible for identifying and reporting non-compliance with company policy.
Guiding employees in case of an emergency situation
A health and safety officer may also be involved in business continuity planning. This includes predicting future emergency events, developing emergency response procedures and educating the workforce on how to implement them.
Consulting with medics on medical issues that might arise
Health and safety officers are responsible for advising on occupational health risks that employees are exposed to. This may be due to hazards in the workplace (e.g., exposure to dust, fumes, chemicals, manual handling injuries, psychosocial risks) or in advising on how employees with medical conditions can still work safely in the workplace. They will be part of the team who responds to medical advice to develop individual workplace adjustments to enable people to keep working safely despite their condition or rehabilitation needs.
Monitoring safety performance
Health and safety officers monitor health and safety performance, including collecting and analysing incident statistics and information. This information is vital to support policy implementation, the preservation of safe systems of work and the organisation’s safety management system. Anaylsing predictive indicators such as incident numbers heals the health and safety advisor where controls or safety performance are deficient. Using this information, they advise on how safety performance can be further improved.
Health and safety officer professional development tips
Continual professional development is vital for all health and safety officers. The field of health and safety is always changing as hazard knowledge improves, ways of preventing accidents are perfected and good practices are further developed. Risk changes and new risk emerges. Professional development can be achieved by:
1. Reading industry guidance and research
Health and safety law sets the minimum standard of safety that must be achieved. New working methods, equipment and materials are constantly being introduced. This brings the need for new knowledge. Many businesses are now identifying the benefits of implementing standards of safety that are above and beyond what is legally required. This can bring business benefits such as improved productivity, talent retention, brand development and attracting investment.
Reading up on the latest research, participating in webinars, joining membership organisations, meeting peers and attending conferences are all ways in which the health and safety officer can improve their competency and strengthen the quality of their work and the advice they provide.
2. Networking with other health and safety officers and mentoring
Networking is another way for health and safety officers to improve their work performance. By networking with others, they will have more opportunities to expand their knowledge base and understand what is considered good practice. Finding a mentor will help them to develop the skills and behaviours that can make them more effective in the workplace.
There are also various professional health and safety industry bodies that health and safety officers can join. For example, there's the British Occupational Hygiene Society, the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health and the Chartered Institute of Ergonomics and Human Factors. These bodies aid career development in several ways, including hosting networking events.
3. Communication and consultation with employees
A health and safety officer has a professional duty to consult with employees about safety standards and controls. The employee best understands the nature and extent of the risk and will be able to provide powerful insights into how the risk is best controlled. Consulting with employees also gives them a sense of ownership and they may be more likely to implement the controls that are subsequently devised. Consultation can be achieved through safety committees, toolbox talks or discussions with individuals. Employees are a rich source of knowledge that can help the health and safety officer to develop their understanding and skills.
Please note that none of the companies, institutions or organisations mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed.
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