Health and safety managers exist in a wide range of industries. They are appointed in companies big and small. Because businesses don't all follow the same structure, the size and scope of the role can vary. However, essentially, a health and safety manager is in place to manage health and safety.
The importance of this role should not be under-estimated. It is a senior role because the health and safety manager needs to have authority. This is necessary not just for managing employees, but also for advising management and directors on health and safety matters.
They need to have the competence to create and implement safe working practices. The power to stop work if it is unsafe and puts people at risk. They should have excellent communication skills to get people involved with initiatives and be approachable at all levels to gather information and feedback.
If you are taking on the role of a health and safety manager, you need to be competent to do so. You should be familiar with health and safety law, but also with the type of work being carried out. For example, if you work in construction, you should have an understanding of the health and safety hazards and risks present in construction work.
An organisation might have one health and safety manager, responsible for the management of the whole organisation. Or several health and safety managers, responsible for specific sites or projects.
In addition to working with in-house staff, health and safety managers will have responsibilities outside the business. They act as a point of contact for other organisations including:
The primary role of the health and safety manager is to advise directors and managers on all safety, health and welfare matters. The business looks to them to ensure it complies with its legal health and safety duties.
The purpose of the health and safety manager is to prevent accidents, injuries, and work-related illness.
Directors will often call on health and safety managers to carry out some or all of the legal health and safety obligations of employers. Certain requirements can be designated or assigned to the health and safety manager by directors. This doesn't relieve directors of their legal responsibilities but rather to help them comply with health and safety law.
In the same way, the health and safety manager will work with directors, managers, supervisors and workers, to make sure that health and safety requirements are met at each level. The success of the health and safety manager will very much rely on teamwork, and the ability to get every level of the business on board with the health and safety agenda.
Health and safety managers must have proper training and be suitably qualified. Often, much of the competency of a health and safety manager can come from experience. However, they should have suitable qualifications which can include:
There are various organisations that provide these qualifications. Including universities, NEBOSH, British Safety Council and City & Guilds NVQ. Of course, in smaller, lower hazard businesses, the level of qualification required would not be as high.
Health and safety managers are responsible for applying the law to the business. So they need to be up to date with changing health and safety laws. They need to know how to apply the law to the work processes and the impact of technological advances.
They should be provided with and pursue courses, seminars and other types of continuing professional development (CPD) to remain competitive within their role.
The role of the health and safety manager covers a little bit more than that of a health and safety advisor. Although this will depend on the structure of the business.
An advisor will usually review, inspect and provide advice. They may investigate issues and prepare documentation, but they will usually rely on managers and supervisors to implement the recommendations given.
A health and safety manager is much more likely to be an internal member of the team. In addition to advising, they will also implement plans and policies. They have more control over implementing the advice given and taking recommended actions.