Safety as a Career for Ex-Servicemen

In their quest to safeguard the working population, today’s health and safety professionals take a proactive, preventative approach to problems such as injury, accidents and equipment failure. Perhaps you have what it takes to join them in this important mission?

What’s involved?

Many who leave the Armed Forces are attracted to a career in this field – after all, the role is primarily about inspiring groups of people to take a disciplined approach to avoiding life-threatening and harmful situations, which means it can really suit them.

These days, health and safety roles often include an environmental remit, so those working in such areas are typically referred to as HSE (or SHE) officers for short. HSE officers use their skills and knowledge to promote a positive HSE culture, ensuring that both employers and employees abide by safety legislation, and that safety policies and practices are adopted and observed. They play a vital role in preventing and controlling operational losses and occupational health problems, as well as accidents and injuries.

NEBOSH National General Certificate

The essential first step to a career in HSE

Skill up while serving

It almost goes without saying that most Service people work for at least some of the time in potentially hazardous environments or with dangerous equipment, or both. Across all branches and trades there are those with practical experience and awareness of HSE at work – you may well be one of them! Indeed, many Service people actively involved in HSE work may not even recognise that is what they are doing, or might consider it a relatively unimportant part of their job.

Forces-run modular training courses in HSE, leading to a certificate, offer an opportunity to gain relevant qualifications while you are still serving. You may currently be in a post that enables you to gain significant HSE qualifications (e.g. N/SVQs or NEBOSH awards). There are also courses you could take that are aimed at the potential manager who sees HSE as part of a job description (e.g. the IOSH Certificate in Managing Safely) or the person looking to specialise in this field (e.g. the NEBOSH National General Certificate, seen as the essential minimum qualification for any full-time health and safety job).

COVID-19 DISTANCE LEARNING UPDATE!

NEBOSH adapting to COVID-19 with open-book examinations 

NEBOSH has adopted a new approach to enable its learners to carry out their assessments from a safe location of their choice. Like organisations around the world needing to adapt to the challenges and opportunities presented by the COVID-19 pandemic, it brought forward and expanded its plans to offer remote and online assessments for its range of qualifications and courses.

The NEBOSH National and International General Certificates were the first qualifications to offer remote assessments, and open-book examinations have been taking place since August 2020. An open-book examination enables learners to take the exam in a safe location of their choosing. The approach also has the added benefit of enabling people in even more countries around the world to study towards and gain a NEBOSH qualification.

Unlike invigilated paper-based exams, NEBOSH’s open-book examinations present learners with a real-life scenario followed by a related series of questions that require them to demonstrate the application of their skills.

Says David Morgan, NEBOSH interim chief executive: ‘The health of our learners is paramount. We want them to feel safe when they carry out their NEBOSH assessments and the best way to do this is to transform the way we do things. COVID-19 has certainly presented us with some challenges, but the changes we have made bring us up to speed with the latest awarding technology so that learners can complete their studies and gain the qualifications they have worked so hard for.’

Further information, including a selection of guidance and support resources, is available here.

Finding employment

As noted above, most HSE officers/advisers get into this role by either completing a qualification and then looking for work or studying while working. Note, though, that it is becoming more common for advisers to enter the profession with a degree-level qualification. Some good advice is that employers tend to favour job applicants who have good people management and interpersonal skills. Health and safety professionals should also keep their skills up to date. And, if you can bring a range of additional skills – such as being able to provide in-house training in areas like manual handling or first aid – that’s another benefit as far as employers are concerned. In addition, the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations outline the legal requirements for safety management issues and, if anything, this increases the need for companies to employ ‘competent’ persons themselves, as opposed to dealing with safety issues via consultants.

Jobs range from a small company employing an individual to a major organisation that has an entire safety team. Some companies specialise in HSE issues such as planning supervision, safety audits, engineering surveying and insurance company safety assessments. Facilities management is another sector where employment possibilities are enhanced by a safety qualification. As noted above, many employers look for HSE advisers to have training qualifications, and to be able to assess the need for, design and deliver safety training.

The Health & Safety Executive employs inspectors and other staff through an online recruitment process. Trainees will usually spend their first two years training in the Field Operations Directorate. After that, some may be deployed into the Hazardous Installations Directorate to meet business needs or for personal development.

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