Work Health & Safety Industry Report
Industry / Careers / Qualifications
In Australia, you will hear the Work Health and Safety (WHS) industry also referred to as the OHS industry (Occupational Health and Safety) – in states where the harmonised Work Health & Safety Legislation has not as yet been implemented such as Western Australia and Victoria. For simplicity we will refer to it as WHS.
WHS roles within any organisation are of primary importance since work health and safety impacts both the productivity and welfare of every individual. Organisations are also becoming increasingly aware of their legislative obligations surrounding duty of care and due diligence.
This awareness has resulted in many new and exciting (and lucrative) career opportunities within the WHS sector. Whilst WHS responsibilities are relevant in all industries, roles are commonly advertised in these sectors/industries:
- Civil Construction
- Building Construction
- Oil & Gas
- Heavy Industry
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.
WHS Skills & Qualifications
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:
When it comes to soft skills, there is a focus on these qualities in the WHS field:
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
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:
- Work Health and Safety advisor
- Health Safety & Environment (HSE) Advisor
- WHS Officer
- WHS Coordinator
- HSE Coordinator
- Safety Health & Wellbeing Officer
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.
To complete the Diploma of Work Health and Safety through Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL), you need to demonstrate that you have the skills and knowledge to manage risks (including identifying hazards), manage legal responsibilities in a WHS context, and investigate and report on health and safety incidents.
At the Diploma level, you are also educating and leading initiatives to improve health and safety measures in the workplace. There is a focus on your communication skills, analytical abilities to resolve complex WHS problems and using your best judgement to make decisions. You will have people who report to you on WHS issues and look to you for direction and resolutions.
To be eligible to enrol in the Diploma of Work Health and Safety you need to have the five core units from the Certificate IV in Work Health and Safety. You can have older versions of these units provided they have been deemed equivalent. Alternatively, you can gain these through Recognition of Prior Learning. Once these units have been assessed and a Statement of Attainment issued, you can enrol in and be assessed for the Diploma.
Units of Competency
The Diploma of Work Health and Safety has nine units of competency, five of which are core (or mandatory) units, and four elective units.
Examples of Position Titles relevant to Diploma level work:
Core units address:
- Management across WHS consultations
- Systematic management of WHS risks
- WHS incident investigations
- Developing, implementing and maintaining systems that manage WHS in the workplace.
- Environmental Health Officer
- OHS Adviser, Coordinator or Officer
- WHS Adviser, Coordinator or Officer
- WHS Manager
- Health & Safety Training Officer
- Health Safety & Environment (HSE) Advisor
- HSE Coordinator
- HSE Superintendent
- HSE Manager
- Safety, Health & Wellbeing Advisor
- Health, Safety, Environment & Training Coordinator
- Health, Safety, Environment & Quality Manager
- Health, Safety & Wellbeing Manager
- Occupational Health & Safety Project Officer
- Coordinator, Safety
- Occupational Hygienist
- Workplace Rehabilitation Officer
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.
To enrol in the Advanced Diploma of Work Health and Safety, you must hold all the core units from Diploma of Work Health and Safety or equivalent competencies.
There are eight units of competency in the Advanced Diploma of Work Health and Safety, of which there are five core units of competency (mandatory units) and three elective units of competency.
The core units cover these areas in WHS management:
- You are applying legislative frameworks for Work Health and Safety (which by necessity involves interpreting legislation and determining how that works in practice).
- WHS management systems are developed, implemented and maintained on an ongoing basis
- Coordinating and facilitating WHS activities, giving strategic consideration to consulting and gaining buy-in from stakeholders and other WHS professionals.
- Implementing risk management strategies addressing WHS risks.
- Evaluating the overall performance of organisations in Work Health and Safety.
If you are operating at an Advanced Diploma level, you will have these key responsibilities of a WHS leader at a strategic level (mirroring the core units of the Advanced Diploma):
- Creating the WHS framework for the organisation
- Strategic planning and management
- Guiding best practice
- Expect leadership abilities
Examples of Position Titles relevant to Advanced Diploma level work:
- WHS Practitioner
- HR Practitioner
- WHS Manager
- HSE Manager
- Senior HSE Advisor
- Work Health and Safety Auditor
- Work Health and Safety Manager
- Work Health and Safety Specialist
- Senior Consultant – WHS and Risk Management
In addition to roles that hold clearly focused WHS positions, you will also see professionals in these fields gaining Advanced Diplomas of Work Health and Safety:
- WHS Consultants who come into an organisation to offer WHS advice and who need to have their skills and knowledge independently verified.
- Human Resource Management specialists who are building or reflecting their specialised knowledge in WHS.
- Upper management who need to understand more about WHS responsibilities and work closely with WHS divisions.
Using RPL qualifications as credit towards university studies:
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.
What Other Qualifications Complement a WHS Career?
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:
- Leadership and Management skills
- Quality Auditing qualifications
- Security and Risk Management qualifications
- Human Resources qualifications
- Incident Investigation qualifications
- Training and Assessment qualifications
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 in business and people management:
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:
For WHS positions in business and people management:
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:
Delivering training is fundamental to many Work Health and Safety roles so it is important that we mention this and look at how to capture and reflect your ability to be an effective trainer.
Reviewing a wide range and number of job advertisements for Work Health and Safety over several months highlighted employers’ request for WHS staff to hold Certificate IV in Training and Assessment.
The older versions of this qualification were often completed by workplace trainers, overwhelmingly working outside the formal Vocational Education sector. The latest version of the Certificate IV in Training and Assessment is directly aligned with the work done by trainers and assessors meeting nationally accredited standards of training and assessing completed by a Registered Training Organisation or TAFE.
It does not reflect the training done in the workforce by WHS roles. The skills required of this type of trainer is more in line with work skill instruction and effective presentations. We have already started to see employers in the Construction and Infrastructure sectors start to move away from requiring the Certificate IV in Training and Assessment and expect to see this broaden across more industries.
TAE as part of Certificate IV WHS
To address training skills and knowledge at a benchmarked level, rather than obtaining the newest Certificate IV in Training and Assessment, the following units of competency could be captured either in a qualification (such as a Certificate IV in Work Health and Safety, or asking for it or as a standalone Statement of Attainment:
BSBCMM401 Make a presentation
This unit addresses your ability to prepare and deliver a presentation, the communication principles you incorporate and the review of presentation to ensure their effectiveness. These are key skills in workplace training.
This unit of competency can be found in Certificate IV in Work Health and Safety, Certificate IV in Human Resources, Certificate IV in Leadership and Management, Certificate IV in Business Administration and Certificate IV in Business.
You can also ask for this unit to be imported to your Diploma of Work Health and Safety. Looking at the qualifications that this unit of competency is found in, you can see that the skills of making a presentation are consistent with the workplace focus in industries that prioritise Work Health and Safety training as well as attending to human resource management and operational responsibilities.
TAEDEL301 Provide work skill instruction
This unit addresses carrying out at least three training sessions in which you demonstrate and offer instructions on work skills for two individual team members or small groups. The range of your delivery and presentation techniques is considered, including how you review the effectiveness of the training that was delivered.
This unit of competency can be found in Certificate IV in Work Health and Safety and Certificate IV in Human Resources. This indicates that this unit is consistent with the workplace focus in industries that prioritise Work Health and Safety training as well as attending to human resource management.