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:
We offer WHS qualifications attained through Recognition of Prior learning (RPL) at a range of levels to meet the entry requirements for WHS roles at a variety of advisory and management positions.
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:
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.
A note on Occupational Health and 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 advertisements still refer to the qualification under this old title. (You can find more about this in our article: History of WHS Qualifications.)
About 40% of employees hold a vocational qualification – which covers the qualifications Churchill Education offers:
A further 40% of the workforce hold tertiary qualifications.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Wondering how others have used a Certificate IV in Work Health and Safety to get ahead in their careers?
After multiple Middle Eastern deployments, Phillip sustained a training injury which meant it was time for him to start preparing to exit. He says the process of gaining a Certificate IV in Work Health and Safety through RPL made him feel ‘legitimised,’ ‘recognised,’ and ‘given a fair go,’ after realising his specialist trade skills and experience within Defence didn’t translate to the outside world.
Before Loraine got in touch with Churchill Education, she was in a state of extreme frustration. She had spent five months and many hours applying for RPL qualifications with another organisation. We were able to assure her within 24 hours that she was eligible for the Certificate IV in Work Health and Safety – which she needed in order to take up an interstate opportunity.
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.
The Diploma level is also a proactive contributor to the workplace: not just responding to incidents, but educating and leading initiatives to improve health and safety measures in a workplace. There is a focus on your communication skills, analytical abilities to resolve WHS problems that may be complex 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, if you are applying for a Recognition of Prior Learning assessment, you ask for an RPL first on the core units. Once these units have been assessed and a Statement of Attainment issued (a record of your competency) you can enrol in and be assessed for the Diploma.
The Diploma of Work Health and Safety has nine units of competency, five of which are core (or mandatory) units, and four elective units of competency.
The core units address skills and knowledge in these areas:
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.
Wondering how others have used a Diploma of Work Health and Safety to get ahead in their careers?
After 20 years in the Police, Maurie left his position as Detective Sergeant in the Child Protective Investigation Unit, to work in the private sector. Based on his skills and experience he was awarded a Diploma in Work Health and Safety through RPL – which was pivotal to moving into a lucrative position with Shell Australia. And we just heard that Maurie is now CEO of another organisation!
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:
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):
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:
Wondering how others have used an Advanced Diploma of Work Health and Safety to get ahead in their careers?
Jeremy literally worked his way from the bottom to the top of the mining industry. So it was no surprise that he was eligible for a variety of qualifications through RPL. One of which was an Advanced Diploma in Work Health and Safety which he needed in order to move into a position as Operations Manager.
After 30 years of Military service, Ken was diagnosed with Type One Diabetes and had to be medically discharged. Ken was able to convert his service into an Advanced Diploma in Work Health and Safety, which helped him to secure civilian employment at a management level, and also achieve a better quality of life for himself and his family.
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.
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:
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:
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.
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:
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.
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.
We hope you found our WHS Industry Report helpful. If you still have questions, or would like to find out what qualifications you might be eligible for through RPL, you can either fill in the form on this page, call us on 1300 793 002 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Work Health & Safety Officer, Seek
Occupational & Environmental Health Professionals, Job Outlook
Cost of Illness & Injury Statistics, Safe Work Australia