Occupational Health and Safety Officer

The role of an occupational health and safety officer (OHSO) is vital in the workplace as it is a professional service role, offering advice and guidance to a company and its employees. It is their job to assist organizations to reduce health and safety risks.

Responsibilities of a Safety Officer

Safety Officers have multiple duties which can be performed in an in-house team, as an independent consultant or within a larger consulting firm. Here are some of the overall duties that safety officers may deal with on a daily basis but are not limited to:

  • Keeping up to date with health and safety regulations.
  • Developing, implementing, and improving health and safety plans, programmes and procedures in the workplace.
  • Ensuring compliance with relevant health and safety legislation.
  • Identifying OHS-related training needs in the workplace.
  • Conducting safety inspections and risk assessments.
  • Investigating workplace accidents.
  • Checking the safety and proper storage of equipment
  • Training and carrying out drills and exercises on how to manage emergency safety situations.

Safety Officer Salary

A 4% growth is expected in the occupational health and safety industry between 2019 – 2029, according to the S.A. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Currently, it is estimated that there are about 122 000 occupational health and safety specialists, the number of professionals is projected to grow to 127 400.

An average annual salary of safety senior consultants as of November 2020 was between R 751 230.03 – R 122 2590.05, according to the S.A. Bureau of Labor Statistics. These figures would be for the industry as a whole and we believe that sectors like mining, has danger pay which inflates these figures. A more accurate representation of the construction industry salary outline could be found at:

3 Steps to becoming a safety officer

It is important to select a relevant industry that you would like to start your safety career in. This could include health care, business, construction, or mining.

Gaining experience is important in any industry and it is no different in the health and safety space. Volunteering or internships are great ways to build up your knowledge and get some industry experience. The working environment teaches skills like interpersonal communication, problem-solving and critical thinking.

Developing OHS knowledge and skills is important, and this could be achieved by obtaining globally recognized certifications such as SAMTRAC. It is evident to note that becoming a health and safety agent within the South African construction industry, one is required to hold an accredited 3-year degree or diploma. It is a requirement of the South African Council for the Project and Construction Management Professions (SACPCMP).

The SACPCMP provide set-out registration criteria for a PrCHSA – similar and relevant qualifications that may also be recognised, follow the link for more information:

If your industry choice is construction, you will have to register with the statutory body (SACPCMP) as a Health and Safety Officer, Health and Safety Manager or Professional Health and Safety Agent. This registration will be determined by your qualifications and relevant experience within the industry.

The SACPCMP offers a registration guideline to assist anyone that would like to make a career move within the health and safety industry within the construction sector:

Duration of study to become a Health & Safety Officer

Depending on the chosen industry, a degree is not required however some qualifications are needed. The level of responsibility also plays a role, but the average duration is between 1 – 5 years.

Degree and Courses

There are a few institutes that can be considered when seeking study opportunities within the health and safety industry, namely, South African Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (SAIOSH) and Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH).

One course to consider is the UCT Occupational Health and Safety online short course which is locally accredited by SAIOSH. SAIOSH is a non-profit organization dedicated to improving its members’ skills by providing regular updates with the latest developments in occupational health and safety. SAQA has confirmed that the South African Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (Saiosh) is the recognised professional body for Occupational Health and Safety in South Africa.

SAMTRAC is also short courses to be considered provided by SafetyCloud and is recognized as the most respected OHS qualifications in the world and is considered as a standard in risk management training certification. This course is internationally recognized and is accredited by merSETA and SAMTRAC international certificates.

SMATRAC provides a solid foundation of the fundamentals for Occupational Health and Safety legislation and compliance. It teaches the application of techniques for hazard identification inspections and risk management.

Looking to complete a diploma in Health and Safety, UNISA has a great course to consider. The Safety management course is offered at NQF level 6. The university has stipulated a set of requirements that learners should fulfil for them to be admitted into the programme. These requirements include: A National Senior Certificate or any other equivalent higher certificate.

The NEBOSH General Certificate in Occupational Health and Safety (NGC) is the most trusted health and safety qualification in the world

The SACPCMP offer a list of accredited institutes where one could study and obtain a qualification within the health and safety industry:

It is beneficial to complete any health and safety course that can increase your knowledge (depending on the chosen industry). Specialized short courses that are more focused on other health and safety topics, such as incident Investigation, First Aid and Firefighting is extremely beneficial to complete as they would make your portfolio more attractive when applying for positions within the industry.

There are numerous health and safety-related courses that can be considered depending on the industry you are looking at. One item to keep in mind is to ensure that the institution and courses you are deciding on should be registered to provide those courses. 

To view all the available courses; follow the links:

Choosing a career in health and safety is noble as it is an industry that is focused on the safeguarding of people’s lives and their safety. Doing the job well could influence the persons’ life in a positive manner and change their environment.

If you would like more information or hear more about how we can help, contact us and let us put our combined 267 years of experience to work for you.

Christof Lourens

CEO Cairnmead Industrial Consultants (Pty) Ltd

Tel: 012 346 5752 | Email: christof@cairnmead.co.za

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