Work Health and Safety Careers in Construction
Update: If you want to become a Workplace Safety or Safety Officer Trainer, check out our latest guide here.
Occupational health is a big issue in workplaces across Australia. Workplace injuries and fatalities are incredibly demoralising for workers, leading to reduced productivity.
They are also a huge expense for individual organisations and the Australian economy overall.
Construction sites are dangerous places to work and construction is one of Australia’s most hazardous industries. There were 17 fatalities in 2013, 29 in 2014 and 5 people have already died in 2015 (as of the 20th March) and many more people are injured.
Potential hazards in construction include:
- Falls when working at heights
- Slips and trips
- Falling objects
- Moving heavy loads
- Bad working positions
- Enclosed spaces
- Crush injuries from excavation work
- Being struck or crushed by vehicles and heavy equipment
- Rough materials
- Exposure to dangerous substances (chemical and biological)
- Vibrations from tools
- Power tools
- Radiation exposure
- Dust inhalation
- Asbestos and other dangerous materials
If you’ve been around construction sites for a while, you probably already know what injuries these can cause. For you, an injury might mean an extended stay in hospital, lost income and reduced quality of life. For employers, it can mean compensation & rehabilitation expenses, lost productivity and fines from regulators.
For these reasons, safety advisors are employed by construction organisations to ensure that employees go home safe at the end of each day. This means there are opportunities to become a full time health and safety advisor in the construction industry.
Here’s how you can become a safety officer in construction:
Training and Qualifications for Construction Safety Officers
The Australian standard for occupational health and safety professionals is the Certificate IV in Work Health and Safety.
This training course teaches you how to identify hazards, control risks and apply today’s safety laws in workplaces such as construction, mining and offices. As part of the requirements, you will be asked to assess your own workplace or inspect a simulated construction site to practice the skills you need for the position.
Holding this nationally recognised certificate is commonly considered the minimum training to become a qualified safety representative. This means that you can participate in your organisation’s management planning when it comes to OHS and WHS policies.
Employers may also want you to more advanced training and qualifications in health and safety, such as a Diploma of Work Health and Safety, or even a Bachelor in Occupational Health, Safety and Environmental Management. Many safety officers build on their basic Certificate IV in Work Health and Safety qualification with additional specialist training. You can find a list of related courses here.
Job Description and Responsibilities
Safety professionals in construction typically spend a significant amount of time on field work for site, personnel and equipment inspections or audits. They are also responsible for doing paperwork to comply with reporting and documentation requirements of your state act and regulator.
Other duties may include:
- Reviewing safety management plans and implementing changes
- Creating procedures for injuries and emergencies
- Enforcing the Codes of Practice for safety in your state or territory
- Making sure harmful materials are stored according to regulations
- Training staff to properly handle equipment
- Improving health conditions by creating strategies for disposal systems, pollution control and handling hazardous substances
Having certain skills and characteristics are extremely helpful if you want to become a good safety officer. These include:
- Excellent communication skills to explain how and why your policies should be followed
- Diplomacy and assertiveness to persuade and notify employees of safety violations
- Logical thinking to investigate and anticipate accidents
Salaries and Wages of Safety Officers
The average annual salary of full time Work Health and Safety Officers is $62,126. This is equal to earning a pay of $28 per hour.
Similar positions like Occupational & Environmental Health Professionals earn close to $35 per hour, depending on your location and experience.
Jobs for Construction Safety Officers
Safety professionals can be found in many areas in Australia. Click on your state or territory below to search for job vacancies in your location:
- Sydney and New South Wales (NSW)
- Melbourne and Victoria (VIC)
- Brisbane and Queensland (QLD)
- Adelaide and Southern Australia (SA)
- Perth and Western Australia (WA)
- Darwin and Northern Territory (NT)
- Hobart and Tasmania (TAS)
- Canberra and Australian Capital Territory (ACT)
Work health and safety is vital in hazardous industries like construction. Construction businesses invest in safety by employing safety officers to minimise the risk of workplace injuries and to make sure their organisation complies with state and national safety regulations.
Qualified safety officers typically hold general safety qualifications like the Cert IV WHS plus a range of specialist qualifications in specific areas of safety.
Everyone wants to return home safely at the end of each day. If you’re interested in safety, why not start your career as a safety advisor and help prevent injuries and fatalities in the construction industry?
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