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Health and Safety

Health and Safety


10 Oct, 2022

Today's health and safety professionals are on a mission to protect the workforce by adopting a proactive and preventive stance against issues like injuries, accidents, and equipment failures. Do you possess the qualities to be part of this crucial endeavour?

What’s involved?

Many individuals transitioning from the Armed Forces find the field of health and safety appealing. The role centres around inspiring groups to adopt a disciplined approach to prevent life-threatening and harmful situations, making it well-suited for those with military backgrounds.

Health and safety roles often integrate an environmental focus, leading to the common use of terms like HSE (Health, Safety, and Environment) or SHE officers. These professionals contribute by fostering a positive HSE culture, ensuring compliance with safety legislation, and championing the adoption and adherence to safety policies and practices. They play a pivotal role in averting and managing operational losses, occupational health challenges, accidents, and injuries.

HSE roles have evolved from reactive, accident-based management to a more preventative approach, exemplified by various NEBOSH certificates and diplomas listed in the 'Get Qualified!' section below.

HSE officers, or advisers, operate across a spectrum of organizations, ranging from small consultancies to multinational corporations. They collaborate with diverse stakeholders, including employees, employers, trade unions, and directors. As an HSE officer, your responsibilities encompass planning, implementing, monitoring, and reviewing preventive and protective measures adopted by companies, with a focus on minimizing accidents, injuries, occupational health problems, and operational losses.

The landscape of HSE jobs is broad and versatile. For example, product safety consultants ensure products meet required standards before reaching the marketplace. Other potential careers include roles as marine surveyors, cargo surveyors, petroleum inspectors, compliance investigators, or insurance claims and insurance analysts. Opportunities also exist as safety directors, technicians, or engineers.

Legal obligations compel employers, irrespective of their size or industry, to appoint 'competent' individuals with responsibilities for HSE matters. A 'competent' person possesses the necessary experience, training, knowledge, and qualities, particularly in risk assessment. Breaching HSE laws constitutes a criminal offense, potentially resulting in fines, imprisonment, or both.

Health and safety Sign

The day job

If you're considering a career as an HSE officer or adviser, understanding the day-to-day responsibilities is crucial. Your primary objective is to prevent health problems, accidents, and injuries in the workplace. This involves crafting health and safety policies and ensuring compliance, not only from employees but also from employers, all while adhering to national safety legislation. The specific areas you may cover depend on the organization, ranging from occupational health and noise to the safe use of machinery, fire safety, and control of hazardous substances.

Your key tasks as an HSE professional might include:

  • Conducting Inspections and Risk Assessments: Regularly evaluating workplaces to identify potential hazards and considering ways to reduce risks.
  • Investigating Accidents: Probing into accidents to determine causes and recommending improvements to safety standards.
  • Record-Keeping: Maintaining meticulous records of accidents and inspection findings to track trends and areas for improvement.
  • Report Writing: Crafting detailed reports that outline suggestions for enhancing safety measures.
  • Advising on Protective Measures: Recommending appropriate protective clothing and safety equipment for different tasks and environments.
  • Equipment Safety: Ensuring the safe installation and use of equipment within the workplace.
  • Hazardous Substance Management: Organizing the safe disposal of hazardous substances, such as asbestos, in compliance with regulations.
  • Training Provision: Providing comprehensive HSE training to both managers and employees, enhancing awareness of potential risks.
  • Staying Informed: Keeping abreast of changes in safety laws and regulations to ensure ongoing compliance.
On an average day, you can expect to wear protective gear like overalls, ear defenders, and safety glasses. If your role involves site visits, having a clean driving license is typically a prerequisite.

The dynamic nature of these responsibilities underscores the vital role HSE professionals play in maintaining a safe and healthy working environment. Understanding and addressing potential risks contribute significantly to the overall well-being of employees and the organization.

NEBOSH National General Certificate in Occupational Health and Safety

The essential first step to a career in HSE

Skill up while serving

It's common knowledge that many military personnel spend a significant portion of their service in potentially hazardous environments or working with dangerous equipment. Across various branches and trades, individuals often possess practical experience and awareness of Health and Safety Executive (HSE) principles at work, even if they don't explicitly recognize it as such or consider it a minor aspect of their duties.

For those keen on developing their HSE expertise while still in service, forces-run modular training courses present a valuable opportunity. These courses lead to certificates and can provide relevant qualifications that are applicable both within the military and in civilian sectors. Leveraging the unique skills acquired during military service can significantly contribute to a successful career in health and safety.

• Risk Assessment Skills: Military personnel often excel in assessing and managing risks in diverse and challenging environments, a skill highly valued in the health and safety field.

• Leadership and Communication: Military service hones leadership and communication skills, vital for effectively guiding teams and conveying safety protocols.

• Emergency Response Expertise: The ability to remain calm under pressure and respond to emergencies is a transferable skill that aligns seamlessly with health and safety roles.

• Adherence to Protocols: Military training instils a strict adherence to protocols and procedures, crucial for enforcing safety guidelines in various settings.

• Problem-Solving Acumen: Military professionals are adept problem solvers, a quality essential for identifying and addressing safety issues in the workplace.

By recognising and enhancing these skills through targeted training, military personnel can not only contribute effectively to the safety and well-being of their comrades during service but also pave the way for a successful career in health and safety upon transitioning to civilian life.

Health and safety Hard Hat with cranes


  1. Health & Safety Executive – the government body that ensures risks to health and safety from work situations are properly controlled
  2. Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH) – the professional body for HSE practitioners
  3. National Examination Board in Occupational Safety and Health (NEBOSH) – an independent awarding body for health, safety and environmental management qualifications (universities and other bodies also provide qualifications recognised by IOSH)


Common areas of employment include:

  • chemicals and allied industries
  • construction
  • education and training
  • engineering
  • hospitals and clinics
  • local government
  • manufacturing
  • oil and gas
  • transport
  • telecommunications.


The skills and qualities essential for an HSE professional are very likely to be familiar to military people like you:

  • self-confidence
  • an eye for detail
  • problem-solving skills
  • systematic approach to work situations
  • diversity of work environments
  • good communication skills (for writing reports, or dealing with both employers and employees)
  • flexibility
  • wide-ranging responsibilities
  • the ability to analyse what went wrong and, importantly, how to put it right.



To get a real idea of what it’s like to transition from the Armed Forces to an HSE role, take a look at the following reports from former Service personnel who studied with NEBOSH and did just that:

  • Darren Culshaw, Health, Safety and Security Manager, Royal Yacht Britannia, former Royal Navy
  • Adam King, Head of SHEQ, Renewi, former Royal Marine
  • Mark Stevens, Health and Safety Advisor, The Building Safety Group, former Royal Engineer
  • Mark Richardson, Health and Safety Manager, Vue Entertainment, Army Reservist 

Finding a Job in Health and Safety 

Individuals pursuing roles as HSE officers/advisers typically enter the field either by completing a relevant qualification and then seeking employment or by studying while actively working. It's worth noting that an increasing number of advisers are entering the profession with a degree-level qualification, signalling a shift in the industry's expectations. 

Valuable advice for prospective job seekers in health and safety emphasizes the importance of possessing good people management and interpersonal skills. Employers often favor candidates who exhibit these qualities. Additionally, health and safety professionals are encouraged to continually update their skills, demonstrating a commitment to staying abreast of industry developments. 

Job applicants who bring supplementary skills, such as the ability to provide in-house training in areas like manual handling or first aid, are highly valued by employers. The evolving legal landscape, particularly outlined in the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations, emphasizes the need for companies to appoint 'competent' persons internally, highlighting the demand for professionals with the right qualifications. 

Health and safety roles span various scales, from individuals employed by small companies to larger organizations boasting dedicated safety teams. Specialized companies focusing on HSE issues, including planning supervision, safety audits, engineering surveying, and insurance company safety assessments, also offer employment opportunities. The facilities management sector is another area where possessing a safety qualification enhances job prospects. 

Many employers actively seek HSE advisers with training qualifications who can assess, design, and deliver safety training. This multifaceted skill set makes candidates more appealing in the competitive job market. 

For those considering a role with the Health & Safety Executive, recruitment is facilitated through an online process. Trainees typically undergo two years of training in the Field Operations Directorate, with potential deployment into the Hazardous Installations Directorate for business needs or personal development opportunities. 

Navigating the job market in health and safety requires a combination of relevant qualifications, interpersonal skills, and a commitment to continuous learning, ensuring professionals are well-positioned for success in this critical field.

Get qualified!

To embark on a career as an HSE adviser, you have the flexibility to pursue health and safety qualifications either once employed or by undertaking relevant training courses before seeking a trainee position. The choice of training largely depends on the industry you are currently in or aspire to work in. All HSE practitioners require a foundational knowledge base to practice effectively. If you're new to HSE, consider starting with an introductory course covering essentials like workplace health and safety, regulations, risk assessment, and basic accident investigation. These courses are often available part-time or through online and distance learning platforms. 

Eligible courses for funding through your ELC (Enhanced Learning Credits) include:

  • level 3 Award in Health and Safety for Supervisors in the Workplace
  • level 3 (NVQ) Certificate in Occupational Health and Safety
  • National General Certificate in Occupational Health and Safety.

Particularly noteworthy are N/SVQs at levels 3 and 4 in occupational health and safety practice, offering promising career prospects. N/SVQ level 3 is equivalent to a NEBOSH Certificate (level 3), recognized by IOSH for TechIOSH membership. Other NVQs are at level 5, while the NEBOSH Diploma, positioned at level 6, is acknowledged for GradIOSH membership. NEBOSH Certificates can be attained in two weeks, but the Diploma requires a more extended timeframe, typically a year or more.

Note that ELC and SLC cannot be used simultaneously. If considering SLC for training below the level 3 threshold, options like the level 2 Award in Health and Safety in the Workplace, providing fundamental knowledge, could be a suitable choice. Similarly, the level 1 Award in Health and Safety in a Construction Environment caters to those eyeing HSE-related roles in the construction industry.
For those aspiring to work as full-time health and safety officers, higher-level qualifications approved by IOSH are often necessary. As your skills progress and responsibilities grow, you can advance to more advanced qualifications, enhancing your expertise in the dynamic field of health and safety.

Health and safety sign with safety First


The NEBOSH National Diploma for Occupational Health and Safety Management Professionals stands out as the quintessential qualification for aspiring HSE professionals. Meticulously designed, this diploma equips students with the expertise needed to embark on a successful career as safety and health practitioners. While the National General Certificate is not a mandatory prerequisite for the Diploma, it is highly recommended, providing a solid foundation for advanced learning.

NEBOSH extends a comprehensive range of HSE-related courses at levels 3 and 6, catering to diverse areas of expertise:

Certificates (level 3): 

  • National General Certificate in Occupational Health and Safety
  • International General Certificate in Occupational Health and Safety
  • Health and Safety Management for Construction (UK)
  • Health and Safety Management for Construction (International)
  • NEBOSH IIRSM Certificate in Managing Risk
  • NEBOSH HSE Certificate in Process Safety Management
  • NEBOSH HSE Certificate in Health and Safety Leadership Excellence
  • International Technical Certificate in Oil and Gas Operational Safety
  • Certificate in Fire Safety
  • Environmental Management Certificate
  • NEBOSH HSE Certificate in Manual Handling Risk Assessment
  • NEBOSH HSE Certificate in Managing Stress at Work

Diplomas (level 6):

  • National Diploma for Occupational Health and Safety Management Professionals 
  • International Diploma for Occupational Health and Safety Management Professionals
  • National Diploma in Environmental Management
  • International Diploma in Environmental Management

For detailed insights into each course, visit the NEBOSH website. Elevate your HSE knowledge and skills with NEBOSH, unlocking a pathway to excellence in health and safety management.

NEBOSH National Diploma for Occupational Health and Safety Management Professionals

Seen as 'the' qualification for aspiring HSE management professionals


For HSE professionals who have surpassed the 'competent' person status and are specialists in their field, membership with the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH) is considered essential. IOSH membership grades are determined by a blend of qualifications, experience, and achievements, reflecting the commitment to excellence in the health and safety domain.

The IOSH offers a diverse range of membership levels, each tailored to individuals' unique expertise and contributions to the field. These membership grades serve as a testament to the ongoing dedication of professionals in fostering a safer working culture. Additionally, IOSH conducts specialized courses, such as the Managing Safely course, designed to instil and promote a culture of safety in the workplace.

To explore more about IOSH membership, including grades, qualifications, and course offerings, visit the official website. IOSH continues to be a beacon for those who aspire to elevate their standing in the realm of health and safety, providing resources, networking opportunities, and recognition for professionals committed to excellence.

Other qualifications

Scientific, engineering, or technical degrees, alongside HNDs, HNCs, National Diplomas, and National Certificates, stand out as particularly suitable qualifications for roles in Health, Safety, and Environmental (HSE) management. These educational backgrounds provide a solid foundation for individuals pursuing careers in this dynamic field.

Moreover, individuals seeking advanced expertise can explore postgraduate qualifications with a specific focus on occupational, environmental, and hygiene aspects of HSE. Numerous universities offer Master of Science (MSc) distance learning programs tailored to HSE, providing a comprehensive understanding of the discipline. Completing such programs can often lead to corporate membership with the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH) within a year, further enhancing professional recognition.

While training in these areas can incur costs, it's worth noting that financial assistance is available to support individuals in their pursuit of these valuable qualifications. These diverse educational pathways empower individuals to develop a robust skill set and knowledge base, positioning them for success in the ever-evolving landscape of health, safety, and environmental management.

Use your ELC

Under the ELC scheme, a wide range of learning can be taken, provided it is offered by an approved provider listed on the ELC website and is at level 3 or above. For full details of how to make the most of your ELC, refer to the in-depth features elsewhere on this website.

Health and Safety officer


NEBOSH has adopted a new approach to enable its learners to carry out their assessments from a location of their choice. Its National and International General Certificates were the first qualifications to offer remote assessment, and open-book exams have been taking place since August 2020. An open-book examination enables learners to take exams in a safe location of their choosing. The approach also has the added benefit of enabling people in even more countries around the world to study towards and gain a NEBOSH qualification.

Unlike invigilated paper-based exams, NEBOSH’s open-book examinations present learners with a real-life scenario followed by a related series of questions that require them to demonstrate the application of their skills. 

Further information, including a selection of guidance and support resources, is available here.

Opportunities available in this sector include the Health, Safety and Environment Technician apprenticeship. Alternatively, use your favourite search engine to discover more options. Or browse the government’s apprenticeship website or Find Apprenticeships, both of which allow you to search for apprenticeship opportunities by area of interest and location.

Chief Petty Officer Mark Campbell case study - Click here

To view our full list of Health & Safety courses - Click here

Whether you’re still in uniform or have already started to prepare for life ‘outside’, QUEST – is your go-to guide to support you along your Forces journey. From your education options while serving, right up to resettlement and into civvy street, it’s the only guide you’ll need to find Funding Options, Training Courses, Enhanced Learning Credits Courses, University Courses, Careers and Transition Advice.

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