Occupational or Workplace Health & Safety Officers (OHS / WHS) manage workplace risks for everyone from workers to customers, visitors and suppliers. They may be advising organisations on health and safety improvements and regulations; training employees and workers, issuing licenses and registration for dangerous operations or equipment use; checking for compliance and investigating accidents or complaints.
If you’re a great communicator seeking a challenging work environment that’s always changing, or are looking for a role where there’s a good mix of office work and being out on site, this could be a career worth looking into.
- Very strong written and verbal communication skills necessary for report writing, training and assisting all levels of the workforce
- Critical thinking, problem solving skills and strong decision maker who’s able to balance the pros and cons of situations and solutions to find the best result
- Observation skills (attention to detail)
- Sense of responsibility and continuous commitment to learning and updating your knowledge
- Physically capable of doing the work required on sites
- Identify potential hazards
- Develop, evaluate and implement programs and policies to create safer, healthier working conditions
- Train employees in safe working practices, their rights and responsibilities
- Record, investigate and report on any accidents, injuries or related health problems
- Work with employees to them get compensation, rehabilitation and then help them to return to work
- Oversee and run practice drills for emergency procedures
- Carry out frequent workplace inspections
OHS Workers work in most industries these days. Your daily duties will vary depending on your job and relate to the specific hazards and health issues that are associated with your industry.
Agriculture’s considered to be one of the most dangerous industries in Australia. In this industry you might be focusing on issues related to:
- Plant and equipment maintenance and use
- Exposure to elements
- Working with animals
- Working in remote areas
Also a high-risk industry, an OHS role in Construction could see you dealing with:
- Employee and management site inductions
- Accident and injury management
- Plant and equipment training and handling
- Hazard assessment and management
- Safety checks and reporting
- Ensuring contractors follow health and safety procedures on sites
Manufacturing incorporates some really broad working conditions, so again your job could be specific to the type of manufacturing, but you could be working with:
- Employee training
- Manual handling
- Machine guarding
- Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
- Specific hazards from chemical exposure to noise, slips and falls
Small businesses must still adhere to the same regulations and can present the same risks and hazards as other industries, so you could be focusing on:
- Providing suitable and safe working environments
- Risk assessments
- Maintenance programs
- Providing up to date and legal advice on procedures, requirements, reporting, compensation, etc.
Transport, postal and warehousing
In these industries you could be focusing on:
- Risks to and from the public
- Maintenance schedules
- Chemicals, gases and fumes
- Working at heights
- Manual handling
Lifestyle Impact: Medium
- Part Time opportunities: Low – only 18% of workers work part time in this industry (source: labourmarketinsights.gov.au).
- Average hours for full-time workers: around 45 per week is normal (source: labourmarketinsights.gov.au).
- OHS Professionals salary (average) $90,000* per year (Source: seek.com.au). *Salaries vary hugely between industries, number of hours worked, skills and experience
- Future career growth: Strong (Source: labourmarketinsights.gov.au).
- Working in Workplace health and safety can be very variable. You could be working from the comfort of a corporate office or travelling between multiple high-risk sites. You may be working standard business hours, or you might have to work shifts and weekends if the industry you’re responsible for operates 24/7. It’s a role that carries a high level of responsibility.
OHS Professionals are most in demand in these locations:
Whilst there is demand for OHS Officers, Advisors and other professionals in all states and within most industries, New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland employ the highest numbers of people in this occupation.
The main industries hiring OHS workers are public administration and safety, construction, health care and social assistance, and mining.
How to become an Occupational Health & Safety Officer in Australia
Most jobs will require a formal qualification in Occupational Health & Safety or a related field. University and VET pathways could both get you where you need to be.
You could consider completing one of the following options:
- Certificate III in Work Health & Safety
- Certificate IV in Work Health & Safety
- Diploma of Work Health & Safety
If you’d rather go to University, you could study a bachelor’s degree in the field or something related. This route could make you eligible to apply for graduate employment opportunities that may be better paid or are more senior positions than if you take the VET pathway. Examples include:
- Bachelor of Occupational Health & Safety at CQU
- Bachelor of health Science at ECU may be a pathway to consider too
Or you could successfully complete a bachelor’s degree in any discipline and then apply to study a graduate diploma, e.g.:
Finally, you could find another role in the industry that interests you, gain work experience and then complete short courses through reputable registered training organisations (RTO’s), network within your organisation and wait for vacancies to come up that you can apply for.
Find out more here –
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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
What qualifications do I need to become an OHS Officer?
Like many careers there are lots of potential pathways, however a formal qualification (VET or degree) is often required by employers.
What skills and knowledge does an Occupational Health & Safety Officer need?
A career in WHS requires you to be:
- a people person who’s great at communicating
You’re also likely to need some qualification that proves that you’ve studied and understand the laws and regulations around Health and safety in the workplace. You’ll also need to be keen to keep your skills and knowledge constantly up to date.
What does an Occupational Health & Safety Officer do?
Work Health & Safety Officers are employed to ensure that organisations are compliant with safety requirements. They identify hazards, assess risks to health and safety, then create and implement policies designed to keep workers safe.
What are 3 things I can do right now to work help me become an Occupational
Health & Safety Officer?
If you’re at high school and you think a career in Occupational Health & Safety sounds like a great match for you, here are a few things you could start doing right now:
- Work on your leadership and communication skills.
- Consider becoming a mentor, coach or tutor which could improve your training skills.
- You could get some work experience in the industry to see if it’s something you’ll enjoy, and give your resume a boost.