In terms of employment, WHS is a $1 billion industry in Australia.
Seek puts the salary range for a WHS Officer at $88,723 to $111,981 per annum, putting the average salary at $100,352 pa. Employment is strongest in New South Wales, Queensland and Western Australia, covering around 70% of WHS positions in Australia.
Job Outlook predicts a 20% increase expected in WHS roles by 2020, and categorises future growth as strong.
This aligns with data from Safe Work Australia that puts the cost to the economy of work place injuries and fatalities as just under $62b pa.
Work-related injuries, illnesses and deaths impose costs on employers, workers and the community. These include both direct costs and indirect costs.
Direct costs include items such as workers’ compensation premiums paid by employers or payments to injured or incapacitated workers from workers’ compensation jurisdictions. Indirect costs include items such as lost productivity, loss of current and future earnings, lost potential output and the cost of providing social welfare programs for injured or incapacitated workers.” Workers bear the brunt of these injuries personally – sitting at around 77% of the cost. The community picks up 18% and employers come in at 5%.
In terms of who makes up the WHS industry, the reported gender split sits roughly around 60:40, male/female.
WHS jobs are predominantly full-time hourly wage or salary, with overtime hours common.
There is no mandated minimum qualification to enter the WHS sector. However, WHS job advertisements largely require the successful applicant to hold formal qualifications in Work Health and Safety, regardless of the level of the role.
In practice, the minimum entry level standard of qualification is Certificate IV in Work Health and Safety.
About 40% of employees hold a vocational qualification – which covers the qualifications Churchill Education offers.
A further 40% of the workforce hold tertiary qualifications.
Our WHS Qualifications Include:
Communication skills – you need to be able to tailor your communication, whether in writing or speaking, to your audience and be persuasive. Achieving WHS outcomes is always a team result so it is important you can inﬂuence others in achieving the best WHS outcomes.
Collaboration – this is where you have the ability to work effectively with a team. Listening is an important feature of collaborating, as is negotiating.
Analytical thinking – not only do you need to be able to learn legal, technical and regulatory information, you have to be able to analyse it and apply it to a real working environment.
Relevant work experience – the focus on qualifications in job advertisements is also combined with a requirement of experience in the sector. As a general rule, for Diploma equivalent positions, five years’ experience is consistently mentioned as a minimum standard.
Leadership – change is often required in order to maintain the highest standards of workplace health and safety, and this requires leadership in managing change cycles.
Prioritise own work commitments with the team objectives – self-management is vital in an operating environment where deadlines and audit timelines are common.
Attention to detail – in these roles, the small details can have just as a big an impact on workplace health and safety as the larger objectives.
Technological literacy – as technology continues to offer more to workplaces, it is important that you can use common computer programs and technological tools in WHS and interpret reports.
Anecdotally, physical fitness seems standard in people successful in this field – after all, this work focuses on health too. It would be wise to hold a Senior First Aid certificate and a current drivers’ licence too.
A Note on Occupational Health & Safety
Previously, the qualifications for this sector also included “Occupational Health and Safety” in the title. This qualification title is now outdated but you will notice that employers or job ads still refer to the qualification under this old title.
You can find more about this in our article: History of WHS Qualifications
WHS Qualifications & Recognition of Prior Learning In this section we give you an explanation of each of our WHS qualifications, the difference between each level, and examples of position titles relevant to each.
Certificate IV in Work Health & Safety
This is a standard level of training for safety officers. It is comprised of 10 units of competency – five of which are core units (or compulsory) and five elective units (which allows some range to match your experience or interests to particular units). There are no pre-requisites to enrol in the Certificate IV in Work Health and Safety.
The core units put a focus on the fundamentals of Work Health and Safety responsibilities: starting with the importance of complying with laws, to contributing to identifying, managing and controlling risks and hazards. The success of Work Health and Safety programs is to be found in the adoption of WHS practices by the general workforce. This knowledge is covered in two core units of competency before also addressing the importance of rendering assistance when responding to WHS incidents.
Examples of Position Titles relevant to Certificate IV level work:
What is the Difference between the Certificate IV and Diploma?
At Certificate IV level, you are relatively young in your Work Health and Safety career. On a day to day basis, you work under limited supervision, identifying risks and you may provide some guidance to others relating to Work Health and Safety matters. You are maintaining a WHS system, often in a workplace rather than being necessarily in a Work Health and Safety industry specifically.
You have the technical skills and can deal with the facts in front of you, heading to your supervisor for more direction when you need it. The successful candidate will be required to maintain the company’s safety management system, implement policies, strategies and operating procedures that support prevention of incidents in accordance with relevant legislation.
This can mean completing checks of WHS management systems and reviewing the results. From there, someone working at Certificate IV level can be required to analyse the results and reporting the outcome up the chain to your supervisor.
At Diploma level, you are going to be responsible for a team and giving direction about the WHS practices in your workplace. When complex problems present, you will be the person tasked with considering them and ensuring an effective resolution as you design and continuously improve a WHS system.
Typically, people who are operating at a Diploma level in a WHS role have in-depth experience that has been progressively built up in the industry, giving them a substantial knowledge base to draw upon.
What is the Difference between the Diploma and Advanced Diploma?
When looking at Diploma level work, a key starting point is that the WHS worker is following the systems, policies and processes that an organisation already has in place. Execution at Diploma level involves identifying risks, consulting, and investigating incidents.
For example, at a Diploma level, you can be completing investigations into WHS incidents and you present your findings and recommendations to your supervisor. A supervisor’s consideration of what is required in response to a WHS incident will be operating at an Advanced Diploma level of strategic analysis.
At the Advanced Diploma level, the responsibility is to create the Work Health and Safety approach that protects the working environment. The Advanced Diploma leads through evaluating the WHS systems, policies and procedures and implementing the activities that the Diploma level workers will be executing.
Many people who have gained qualifications with Churchill Education have used them to gain credit towards further education, including Bachelor degrees or Masters at university. All nationally recognised qualifications can be used for credit transfer. Most universities state that the amount of credit granted depends on the specific application of an individual.
It makes sense that a career in Work Health and Safety focuses on acquiring Work Health and Safety qualifications. But what other qualifications are also valued in this field?
In preparing this report, we spent considerable time reviewing online job advertisements and position descriptions to see what other skills and qualifications employers are looking for.
The specialist complementary skills and qualifications we often found mentioned were:
From there, it helps to align the qualifications to a similar level that sits with your Work Health and Safety qualification.
Certificate IV Level
If you are at Certificate IV level in Work Health and Safety, then you could consider adding some academic recognition of your skills and knowledge in one or more of the following qualifications:
For WHS positions requiring specialist/technical skills:
If you are at Diploma level in Work Health and Safety, then you could consider adding some academic recognition of your skills and knowledge in one or more of the following qualifications:
Advanced Diploma Level
If you are at Advanced Diploma level in Work Health and Safety, then you should consider adding some academic recognition of your skills and knowledge in one or more of the following qualifications:
We hope you found our Work Health and Safety Industry Report helpful.
If you would like to find out what qualifications you might be eligible for through RPL:
Call: 1300 793 002