Updated October 2022
Have you ever quit a job because working conditions were just too terrible to bear?
Maybe you had to stand for too long or work in a cramped space that was too hot or too cold. Or maybe you hurt yourself on equipment that was poorly maintained, malfunctioning, or simply unsafe to use.
Or perhaps your manager turned a blind eye to bullying, harassment, and other factors that impacted your mental health at work.
People often associate health and safety problems with construction and manufacturing jobs. But unhealthy working conditions can be found in all kinds of work environments, including offices, restaurants, laboratories, and schools.
They can include physical safety issues, as well as risks to emotional and psychological wellness.
Canada has been cracking down on hazardous and downright inhumane workplaces for decades. In fact, Saskatchewan passed North America's very first Occupational Health Act back in 1971—closely followed by Manitoba's own Workplace Safety and Health Act in 1976.
The goal of this kind of legislation is to ensure workplaces are safe for employees by creating rules employers must follow—and strict penalties when these rules are broken.
Who's in charge of inspecting workplaces to make sure owners are following the law and protecting employee health? Health and safety officers.
And it so happens that right now, Manitoba is experiencing a serious shortage of health and safety officers. Demand is rising for skilled professionals throughout this field.
Should you consider a career in occupational health and safety? Here's a closer look at the role.
What exactly does an occupational health & safety officer do?
Fundamentally, a health and safety officer is in charge of inspecting workplaces, ensuring regulations are being followed, and informing the authorities when rules are broken.
But it's more complex than it sounds. To do their job right, health and safety officers must follow a system that includes the following elements and procedures:
Assessment—Making sure the workplace is following occupational health and safety regulations (as laid out in the Manitoba Workplace Safety and Health Act)
Improvement—Monitoring working conditions, conducting risk assessments, and striving to eliminate hazards
Training—Making sure all new and existing employees and managers understand safety procedures and policies (and coordinating regular safety meetings to promote compliance)
Investigation—Looking into any reports of unsafe conditions, or workplace injuries (spills of hazardous chemicals, outbreaks of diseases or poisonings, accidents, etc.)
Enforcement—Taking steps to fine or shut down a workplace that does not comply with occupational health and safety rules
Occupational health and safety officers work with all kinds of companies, organizations, and institutions. They inspect commercial kitchens, schools, hospitals, industrial plants, municipal water treatment facilities, restaurants, hotels, and more.
This profession goes by many different names. You'll see job postings and descriptions that include titles like:
- Health and safety officer
- Environmental health officer
- Health standards inspector
- Health safety advisor
- Health safety coordinator
- Health and safety specialist
There are job opportunities with safety auditing companies and businesses of all types and sizes. Many organizations hire full-time health and safety professionals who continuously work at improving safety measures, training employees, and dealing with incidents.
Occupational health & safety training programs
Studying full time, you can earn an occupational health and safety diploma in just 12 months. Quality programs also include an internship, so students can gain professional experience and start connecting with potential employers before graduation.
What exactly will you learn in class? Comprehensive occupational health and safety training covers:
- How to recognize health and safety risks in a variety of work environments
- How to conduct an audit (inspecting a workplace for potential risks and identifying compliance issues)
- How to deal with and prevent environmental hazards like fires and chemical spills
- Emergency procedures (fire control systems, evacuation procedures)
- How to set up work areas that offer employees maximum comfort and protection from repetitive stress injuries
- Health and hygiene in the workplace, including chemical hazards, physical hazards, and air pollution
- How to deal with workplace harassment and violence
- Occupational health and safety laws and regulations in Canada
- How to create a comprehensive health and safety plan for a company or organization
Important: Ensure the training program you choose is approved by the Board of Canadian Registered Safety Professionals (BCRSP). Graduates of approved programs are immediately eligible for the Canadian Registered Safety Technician (CRST) certification. The CRST is recognized across Canada and is often a requirement for jobs in this field.
Occupational health and safety career outlook & salary for Winnipeg
Based on the latest job market research from the Government of Canada Job Bank, we know that there's rising demand for health and safety officers across Manitoba, and in Winnipeg in particular. The Job Bank has awarded this occupation 3/3 stars for outlook—the highest rating for demand and expected employment growth.
A stronger focus on employee safety and wellness in the workplace is driving demand in this field. We're also expecting a large number of occupational health and safety professionals to retire in the coming decade, which will leave a large gap in the workforce. Manitoba needs a new generation of trained health and safety officers to fill that gap.
So if you decide to pursue this career, what kind of salary can you expect to start out with?
The Job Bank reports that health and safety officers in Winnipeg earn about $73,000 as a median salary. Just starting out, you could expect to make around $35,000.
The highest-paid professionals in this field are making upwards of $90,000/year.
The combination of excellent employment demand and competitive salaries makes occupational health and safety a very attractive career path. But is it the right field for you?
considering occupational Health & Safety Training?
Have a look at the occupational health and safety program offered by Herzing College Winnipeg. This program is approved by the BCRSP, takes only 12 months to complete, and includes an internship for real work experience.
Still have questions? We recommend you speak with admissions. An advisor can walk you through the details of the program, including costs, class schedules, financial aid options, and how to apply. This is the best way to determine if this career is right for you and plan your next steps.
Chat live with an advisor right now. Or click below to explore the program and request more information. We're here to help!