Health and safety managers have a critical leadership role in many organizations: creating and monitoring policies and programs to keep people safe on the job.
Ultimately, they’re responsible for identifying risks, preventing accidents, and promoting safety and wellness throughout the organization.
If you have a background in health and safety and are hoping to move your career forward, the next logical step is to become a health and safety manager.
So what do you need to move into this role?
We analyzed dozens of job postings to see what qualifications and skills employers look for when hiring health and safety (H&S) managers.
Here are the typical requirements you'll need to fulfill.
Health and Safety work EXPERIENCE
Let’s start with the obvious: To become a health and safety manager, you need to have at least a few years of experience in the occupational health and safety (OHS) field.
Companies want H&S managers who have hands-on practice with tasks like delivering safety training, supervising workers, contributing to OHS policies, and engaging with different company stakeholders.
Our research showed that three to five years of experience is typically the minimum employers ask for. Some senior health and safety roles require up to 10 years.
POST-SECONDARY TRAINING IN HEALTH & SAFETY
Many health and safety manager roles call for a bachelor’s degree in OHS or a related field like chemistry or engineering.
But some companies accept candidates with a college diploma or graduate certificate in health and safety. And in some cases, work experience can substitute for formal educational credentials.
OHS expert Kylie Boyd has a geography degree and a post-grad certificate in environmental management. She points out that there are many educational routes that can get you to a leadership role in health and safety. "A bachelor's degree isn't necessarily a must," she says.
"There is a lot of training available and health & safety is a broad field. Each company has different requirements. There are many ways to enter the industry and advance your career.”
Health and safety CERTIFICATION
Legally, nothing says you need to be certified to become a health and safety manager. But many companies prefer to hire managers who have had their skills verified by organizations like the Board of Canadian Registered Safety Professionals (BCRSP) or the Canadian Society of Safety Engineering (CSSE).
For instance, many employers look for candidates who have achieved (or are eligible to get) the Canadian Registered Safety Professional (CRSP) designation from the BCRSP.
To become a CRSP, you need to have a bachelor’s degree in any field or a diploma in OHS, plus 4 years of industry experience. You must also accumulate at least 25 Continuous Professional Development (CPD) points every 5 years in order to maintain your CRSP certification.
Health and safety managers must be comfortable with technology.
Most positions call for intermediate-to-advanced skills with Microsoft software like Excel, Word, PowerPoint, and Access. That’s because you need to be able to organize and analyze data and prepare and format reports.
Being familiar with different project management and safety management systems can also be helpful.
As a health and safety manager, you will be responsible for listening to safety concerns, writing reports, developing policies and procedures, and making sure everyone understands and follows regulations.
That’s why a key component of health and safety management training is improving students’ communication skills. You must be able to build strong relationships and facilitate open, respectful dialogue among all levels of an organization.
Navin Homenauth has over a decade of experience developing and implementing OHS plans. He says H&S managers must be clear about expectations and get people to buy into the purpose behind any measures they’re implementing.
"Clear and consistent communication about roles, responsibilities, process, and procedures is key," he explains.
"For OHS managers, part of the job is educating others about WHY safety programs are important and fostering a culture where health, safety, and wellness are highly valued and a top priority.”
PROBLEM-SOLVING AND CONFLICT RESOLUTION SKILLS
To be an effective H&S manager, you must be able to assess problems related to health and safety and come up with pragmatic solutions that protect workers.
Of course, your solutions won’t always make everyone happy. Change can be difficult. For instance, an employee may be frustrated if a new safety procedure means one of his everyday tasks takes longer than it used to.
You need to respond calmly, negotiate effectively, and smooth over any conflicts that arise.
WANT TO BECOME A HEALTH AND SAFETY MANAGER?
Looking to advance your OHS career by taking on a management role?
Have a look at the Health and Safety Management certificate from Kompass Professional Development. It’s designed to help H&S professionals expand their risk management, leadership, communication, and decision-making skills.
The certificate is offered online for maximum convenience and flexibility. Courses can be spread over 10 to 20 weeks.
The health and safety training offered at Kompass counts as Continuous Professional Development (CPD) points for the Board of Canadian Registered Safety Professionals (BCRSP).
Click below to get more details on the program and connect live with an admissions advisor. Classes start weekly.