The Value of Good Safety Advice

A recent article from the ABC caught my eye as it relates to the competency of safety officers (or advisers).  This is obviously relevant to me as it is something that I do and talk about often.  I act as both a Safety Adviser and trainer of Certificate IV WHS students aiming to become Safety Advisers.  My overwhelming advice to employers and students is that you need good safety advice.  In the case mentioned above a company and its director both face significant fines for failures in their safety system; and the competency of the safety officer is being brought into question.


Do you need good Safety Advice?

The WHS Act provides duties for all business with regards to WHS.  These duties are wide ranging and include basic workplace safety, worker consultation and various notifications that are required.  There is a lot, and there are no defences for ignorance of these duties.  WHS is a difficult area to be fully abreast of, even when it is your job.  This is even more so when you are doing it as a part time job with little or no qualifications – there is just a lot to know these days, and it is one of those things that sometimes you don’t know what you don’t know.  So I think the answer is – you need good safety advice.


What qualifications does a Safety Officer/Adviser need?

I get asked this question all the time.  It used to be easy (at least in Queensland) where we had a prescribed course to become a Workplace Health and Safety Officer.  Now the Queensland WHS Act  does not specify what training a safety adviser should have, or even that you need one – so there are no clear legal requirements.  Without this we can look for qualifications under the Australian Qualifications Framework – and here the basic entry level is the Certificate IV (WHS).  To me this has become the industry standard entry level qualification, without it actually being stated in any legislation.  Of course as far as qualifications go a diploma, graduate diploma or bachelor’s degree would be of extra benefit.


Recent industry experience:

As we all know, a qualification is really just a piece of paper and must be backed up by some actual industry experience.  Most new graduates have very little practical safety and industry experience and must gain it on the job.  If they are lucky enough to gain a job where they are working with more experienced Safety Officers this is easy, but of you are on you own, and the safety gig is strictly part time, then it is pretty hard.


Options for good safety advice:

So what are the options for a business that wants to have access to good health and safety advice and / or a safety officer?  Really (and briefly) it comes down to these:

  1. Employ a full time safety officer / team
    • Pros – high quality safety advice
    • Cons – not viable for most businesses
  2. Train a person in-house
    • Pros – Low ongoing cost if person stays in the business.
    • Cons – initially lower quality advice due to lack of practical experience
  3. Use in-house trained person with experienced mentor
    • Pros – Improved quality of safety advice, access to a wide range of safety documentation.
    • Cons – more costly than in-house person alone.
  4. Use regular contractor to oversee safety operations and provide as needed advice.
    • Pros – High quality advice, access to a wide range of safety documentation.
    • Cons – more costly than in-house person alone.


As usual please contact momentum safety if you wish to talk about any aspect of this article or have any questions about health and safety.