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Tips for Recruiting Health &amp; Environmental Safety Officers

Health and safety officers carry great responsibility.  Their role tasks them with looking after the welfare of fellow employees and ensuring that the company’s working environment is up to standard. They are also expected to address any safety and health concerns with management, government bodies as well as the general public. So what qualities should you look for when selecting a potential candidate?

The role and responsibilities

The primary duty of a health and environmental safety officer is to ensure that the workplace is safe, clean, and healthy for all employees. They are also expected to handle environmental issues affecting not only the company but the local area as well. Their duties include:

Checking, monitoring and investigating

  • Preparing risk assessments and advising how to make the workplace safer.
  • Creating safety operation outlines to pinpoint all potential dangers.
  • Monitoring staff compliance with environmental regulations.
  • Conducting regular workplace inspections to check if the company’s policies and procedures are strictly being followed
  • Checking company equipment to ensure employees install them safely.
  • Inspecting any food that’s served within the company to meet safety and hygiene standards.
  • Acting on complaints and investigating health outbreaks in the workplace, eg, infectious sickness, food poisoning or pests. If necessary, they’ll collect samples for laboratory tests.
  • Investigating workplace accidents.
  • Recording and keeping relevant reports.

Advising, supporting and managing

  • Formulating health and safety strategies as well as company policies.
  • Managing the proper disposal of waste and hazardous materials.
  • Conducting in-house training to avoid possible accidents and raising safety awareness.
  • Advising on environmental, health, and safety matters to the employer or top management.
  • Providing support to the local community by offering advice or educational talks.
  • Attending relevant or mandatory seminars in health and environmental safety.
  • Keeping abreast of health and safety legislation to ensure that the company is continually up-to-date.
  • Keeping track of health and safety issues that may affect the company’s industry.

Essential qualifications and skills

  • Academic
    • As a prospective health and safety officer, the candidate must have a relevant undergraduate or postgraduate degree that is recognised by professional bodies.
    • They also need to complete both the required work-based training program and a series of exams in environmental health.
    • Entrance may also be possible following the studying of science or technology-related subjects. However, this will depend on the employer’s
  • Vocational
    • Candidates who hold a level 3 vocational science-related course could also qualify for the role.
  • Required skills

Your company may have specific requirements for the qualities a prospective environmental health and safety officer brings to the position. If not, these are the typical skills required across most industries:

  • Excellent attention to detail
  • A great communicator, both in speaking and writing
  • Solid interpersonal and negotiating skills
  • Strong organisation skills
  • Ability to be patient and tactful
  • Problem solver with an investigative mind
  • Team player
  • Technical abilities such as IT skills
  • Able to analyse complex matters and present them in an accurate, easy-to-understand way
  • Understanding of the law and other government regulations
  • Physically fit (if they are required to inspect large-scale plants or workplace)
  • Driving license – likely to be needed, especially if they are expected to travel between multiple sites

When reaching out to potential candidates, it will be helpful to inform them about what type of working environment to expect in the advertised role. You could post the position using various channels like newspapers or the internet. However, the most efficient and reliable method is to hire the services of recruiting firms like Principal People team. They have the specialist expertise to help you match the best possible candidate within the industry’s talent pool to your organisational needs. These recruiters can screen out immediately anyone who may be unsuitable, allowing you to choose the best person for the job from qualified candidates.

Duties and functions requiring HR support

A safety and health environment officer has responsibilities that are separate from those of the HR department.  However, there are cases where they have to coordinate and cooperate together in order to resolve sensitive company operations and policies. Some of the decisions of either department can affect or overstep the other’s boundaries. The situations include: 

● Promotion and advancement

Often, companies promote employees who have a great track record of being highly productive. However, they may also have a bad safety record. Such a case can put HR and the safety officer at odds. Fortunately, if both offices work together, they could avoid any conflict.  The safety officer needs to point out that rewarding productive people who sacrifice safety may send out the wrong message. In this instance, HR will also look at the employees’ safety records before considering them for promotion.

● Misdemeanours

Any employee wrongdoings are the concern of HR since it’s the department’s responsibility to discipline erring staff. Meanwhile, such reckless action also poses a threat to workplace safety. In this case, the health and safety officer needs to get involved, while the HR department is responsible for deciding and handing out punishment.

● Substance abuse

Employees who work under the influence of alcohol or drugs pose a serious safety threat to fellow employees in the workplace. The health and safety officer can bring a case against the employee. However, it’s the HR department’s duty to make sure that the situation is handled professionally; especially if employee termination is involved.

● Injuries in the workplace

When it comes to employee injuries, not all will create liabilities for the company. Both the health and safety officer and HR department can work together to jointly investigate the matter. They will find out if the injury was a result of the employee’s negligence and other factors. Based on the health and safety officer’s recommendation, the HR department can then make a fair ruling.

● Safety training

The health and safety officer is normally responsible for conducting safety training. HR may devise its own programmes to help employees accept or even welcome such training. They can show this as proof that the company is prioritising worker safety. This is also effective in encouraging employees to be happy at work and a feel a valuable part of the company.

● Supporting the safety culture

It’s important that HR department actively supports the health and safety officer when implementing a safety culture in the company and workplace.  Such an effort can not only reduce the number of accidents and injuries but also lead to reduced paperwork and legal headaches for the HR department.

Conclusion

The position of health and safety officer comes with a  heavy burden of responsibility. They have the organisation’s safety record and the protection of the health, safety and welfare of all employees on their shoulders. It’s a role that is especially diverse and complex. They are tasked with numerous responsibilities such as actively monitoring and managing many day-to-day aspects of health and safety, investigating breaches of regulations, formulating strategies and advising managers and the public on important issues.  This is why it is critical that organisations take the right diligent approach in recruitment to ensure they find the most qualified and skilled candidate for the job.

Bear also in mind that when it comes to safeguarding the health and safety of employees that it’s the duty for both the health and safety officer and HR. The plan is that they will work together to protect employees from possible accidents and injuries. In doing so, it will create the best prepared and focussed organisation with a culture that’s healthy for people and business.

E-mail me when people leave their comments –

Simon Bliss is the managing director of Principal People, a recruitment consultancy specialising in Health, Safety, and Environment. He’s also the COO of the Juhler Group of Companies, which operates in 40 locations across Europe and Asia. Principal People is responsible for matching the best-qualified candidates with the requirements of companies in various industries.

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