Safety First

Safety First Safety at work is no accident.

Workplace safety is a growing priority for companies in Alberta. This has opened up many new career opportunities for occupational health and safety advisors.

They develop-and put into action-workplace health and safety programs at local businesses. Companies can't afford fines for injured workers or the cost of lost production. Safety gives a good return on investment.

Not only that, but companies realize they have a moral obligation to ensure worksites are safe-for their employees, for the public and for the environment.

Where is the work?

Safety advisors work in many industries across the region, from oil and gas and construction to manufacturing, forestry and transportation.

Most advisors work directly for a company in their safety department. Larger companies often have a team of safety advisors on staff, while smaller companies may employ only one or two safety advisors.

How can I get my foot in the door?

When it comes to starting a career as a safety advisor, having at least a few years of related work experience is important. It doesn't matter what industry you want to work in. Employers want people who have field experience and an understanding of their industry, their operations, and how things work in the field.

For example, in the construction industry, safety advisors often start as labourers and work their way up into junior safety positions. After three years, they can take the National Construction Safety Officer certification and move into a safety role (this is the minimum educational training most Alberta construction companies require for safety advisors). Companies often help pay for training courses.

In manufacturing, safety advisors may have experience on the production line. In oil and gas, safety advisors often have experience working on drilling or service rigs or mining operations. You need to have a reasonable understanding of what the risks are of the work being done. It builds credibility with the frontline workers who are out there doing the work, day to day. People with a background in other safety careers, such as paramedics or safety watch technicians (an entry-level job providing hands-on safety in industrial facilities) may also move into safety advisor roles with enough work experience under their belts.

Those with trades tickets or some form of post-secondary technical training are also well-suited to move into a safety advisor role.

Another way to gain some basic experience is to join your company's safety committee.

Training options: How to pick the right path

With some field experience on your resume, the next step is to get some formal safety training. There are many options, from short courses and certificates to post-secondary schooling. Different employers, in different industries, look for different levels of training. If you're not sure where to start, call an employer or someone working in the safety field and ask them for advice.

What to expect on the job

Job duties can vary greatly from employer to employer, but there are some common tasks performed by safety advisors. They include:

 Training new and existing employees on safe work procedures

 Ensuring company safety programs are being followed

 Conducting safety courses

 Conducting company-wide safety meetings

 Conducting or assisting with "tool box talks" at work sites

 Evaluating work sites for potential safety hazards

 Reviewing and developing health and safety initiatives, policies and procedures

 Developing emergency plans

 Developing environmental management plans

 Performing safety audits

 Writing and filing reports

 Investigating accidents.

A typical work day

Safety advisors often spend much of their day in the field, throwing on their coveralls and safety gear and visiting work sites.

This could include everything from mining or construction sites to drilling rigs, workshops or manufacturing facilities. Work sites can be remote, so travel may be required. The rest of their time is usually spent in an office, doing paperwork or developing safety programs. In larger companies, safety advisors may be more specialized, either working in the field or in the office.

Hours of work vary for safety advisors. Some field positions require 10 to 12 hour shifts. Other safety advisors work regular office hours. They may also be on-call for emergencies.

Skills you'll need in order to work as a safety advisor, certain skills are needed to do the job well. At the top of the list is good communication skills-being able to talk to people, and knowing when to listen.

The challenge for safety advisors is creating a safety culture at work. This means inspiring workers to make safety a top priority-not because they have to, but because they want to.

Safety advisors should also feel comfortable talking in front of people, from field crews and sub-contractors to supervisors and top executives, but this is something that can be learned over time. It's important for safety advisors to be non-confrontational and open to ideas from other employees.

Other skills employers look for include:

 Ability to work with diverse groups of people

 Ability to motivate and encourage a positive attitude towards safety

 Excellent problem solving skills

 Ability to work in a fast-paced environment

 Detail and results oriented


 Good record keeping and reporting skills

 Computer skills

 Time management skills.

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