Health and Safety Adviser
Health and safety advisers monitor workplace health and safety hazards, train employees on health and safety procedures, and investigate accidents.
Health and safety advisers usually earn
$40K-$140K per year
Source: Safeguard, 2017.
Pay for health and safety advisers varies depending on skills and experience.
- Health and safety advisers with up to three years' experience earn an average of $71,000 a year.
- Those with four to nine years' experience earn an average of $87,500.
- Senior health and safety advisers with 10 or more years' experience earn an average of $112,500.
Source: Safeguard, 2017.
(This information is a guide only. Find out more about the sources of our pay information)
What you will do
Health and safety advisers may do some or all of the following:
- develop policies and procedures to minimise workplace hazards
- identify hazards and risks that may affect the health of workers
- educate and train staff in managing workplace risks
- encourage staff to participate in health and safety procedures
- inspect workplaces to check health and safety procedures are followed
- record and investigate incidents and injuries, and equipment damage
- help injured staff return to work
- prepare reports on safety performance.
Skills and knowledge
Health and safety advisers need to have knowledge of:
- health and safety legislation
- work-related illnesses and injuries, and rehabilitation strategies
- WorkSafe policies, guidelines, and procedures
- Accident Compensation Corporation (ACC) procedures, and how an organisation becomes ACC-accredited
- international health and safety standards and tools
- how businesses function
- the industry they are working in.
Health and safety advisers:
- usually work regular business hours, but may need to work evenings and weekends occasionally
- usually work in offices and at worksites such as factories, farms and forests
- may work in noisy, dirty conditions
- may travel locally between worksites, and overseas to attend conferences.
What's the job really like?
Health, Safety and Well-Being Manager
Started with the Air Force
Robert Powell didn’t start off with ambitions of working in health and safety. It was only after he became a health and safety representative while serving in the Air Force that he realised it was the career for him.
"I found that I actually enjoyed doing it more than my real job. It involves working with a lot of people and a lot of problem solving and I felt there were good opportunities for growth for me."
For Robert, the best part of the job is working with people and teaching them how to be safe in the workplace – but it can also be the most challenging part.
"If you try and do everything for someone they’ll switch off, but if you work with them to help them come to their own solutions it is a lot more effective.
"I find the most challenging thing is teaching the people who have been doing a particular job for a long time. Young people are willing to take on new information, but the trick is to get their managers and supervisors on board.
"You need to be able to communicate effectively with people."
Volunteer to get a taste of the job
If a career in health and safety sounds like it might be for you, Robert recommends getting as much experience as you can.
"If you’re interested in working in health and safety I recommend you volunteer to be a health and safety representative in your current workplace – that way you can get a feel for whether it agrees with you or not."
Briony Hooper talks about her work as a health and safety adviser in the forestry industry – 2.50 mins. (Video courtesy of Growing NZ)
Forestry worker: Is that the kind of thing? Like I asked him why did he go in there…
Briony: So it’s basically focusing on why as opposed to what happened. So it’s like why did it make sense to go in there. Why did you think that was OK? The person did what they did because they didn’t think it would result in an accident. So we want to work out why they didn’t think that and where the gaps were that made it an incident.
Accident investigations tend to blame the individual involved as opposed to looking at the wider system to promote learning and industry change.
The project itself is that we are looking at lots of different incidents.
Improving safety is of big importance in New Zealand forestry and the reason for that is the unforgiving, challenging environment our workers face day to day. There’s been a real focus in the last few years on safety, in particular of our workers in high-risk roles and that was catalysed because of a number of deaths in 2013.
The objective of the new methodology that we are using in our research is to sit down with the participants of the incident or the accident and we sit down and we build a complex narrative from their stories. From there we ask men in similar roles to describe how their expertise has got them out of situations like that.
Forestry worker: Just seeing the top you know, when they fall you’ve just got to move real quick. But here it’s all filled with vines and you fell in here and it’s just like everything around you is moving.
Briony: As an investigator we can’t come in and know how an operation works. It helps to be naive and allow people to use their own experience to improve the system.
To become a health and safety adviser it is recommended you have an occupational health and safety certificate, diploma or degree.
Several tertiary institutes offer these courses.
There are no specific secondary education requirements to become a health and safety adviser. However, biology, chemistry, physics, maths and English are useful.
Additional requirements for specialist roles:
To specialise as a health and safety adviser in a particular industry, such as forestry, you need to complete further on-the-job qualifications relevant to that industry, or have significant work experience in the industry.
Health and safety advisers need to be:
- good at relating to a wide range of people
- able to remain calm in emergencies
- skilled at understanding complex information and presenting it simply and accurately
- good at problem-solving and decision-making
- able to work independently and in a team.
Being a health and safety adviser involves working with a lot of people and doing a lot of problem-solving.
Health, Safety and Well-Being Manager
Useful experience for health and safety advisers includes:
- work in a trade that requires health and safety awareness, such as construction or agriculture
- experience in the industry that you want to work in – for example, forestry
- a background in occupational health nursing
- work for the Accident Compensation Corporation (ACC).
Health and safety advisers in some specialised areas, such as construction, need to be comfortable working in confined spaces and at heights.
They may also need normal colour vision because many safety systems are colour-coded.
Find out more about training
- Employers and Manufacturers' Association
- (09) 367 0909 - firstname.lastname@example.org - www.ema.co.nz
- Health and Safety Association of New Zealand
- email@example.com - www.hasanz.org.nz
- NZ Institute of Safety Management
- 027 524 3911 - firstname.lastname@example.org - www.nzism.org
- NZ Occupational Health Nurses' Association (Inc)
- 027 526 6220 - email@example.com - www.nzohna.org.nz
What are the chances of getting a job?
Good demand for health and safety advisers
Opportunities for health and safety advisers are good due to:
- demand for trained, experienced health and safety advisers in many industries, especially construction, agriculture, manufacturing and forestry
- WorkSafe's strategy to improve health and safety in New Zealand workplaces
- government and industry initiatives to change the health and safety culture in New Zealand industries after some serious accidents.
Shortage of trained, experienced health and safety advisers
The number of new health and safety advisers is insufficient to meet demand. This is because it takes a long time to train as a health and safety adviser, and relevant industry experience is important for specific roles. As a result, some employers are recruiting from overseas.
According to the Census, 2,445 health and safety advisers worked in New Zealand in 2018.
Types of employers varied
Health and safety advisers may:
- be employed by businesses across a wide range of industries
- work as consultants for health and safety consulting firms
- be self-employed, working on contract for several smaller businesses
- work in the not-for-profit sector.
Larger businesses in industries with higher rates of work-related injuries usually employ full-time health and safety advisers. These industries include:
- mining and quarrying
- Aldridge, P, executive director, Health and Safety Association of New Zealand, Careers Directorate – Tertiary Education Commission interview, March 2018.
- Health and Safety Association of New Zealand and PricewaterhouseCoopers, 'HASANZ Health and Safety Professionals Survey', 2017, (www.hasanz.org.nz).
- New Zealand Institute of Safety Management, 'Careers', accessed March 2018, (www.nzism.org).
- New Zealand Institute of Safety Management, Careers Directorate – Tertiary Education Commission interview, March 2018.
- Stats NZ, '2018 Census Data', 2019.
- WorkSafe, 'Our Priorities', accessed March 2018, (www.worksafe.govt.nz).
(This information is a guide only. Find out more about the sources of our job opportunities information)
Progression and specialisations
Health and safety advisers may progress into management, teaching or research roles.
They may also go on to set up their own business.
Health and safety advisers may specialise in particular industries such as:
- agriculture, forestry or fishing
- oil and gas
- processing and manufacturing.
Last updated 14 January 2021