How to Hire the Best Safety Officer

23 May 2018

Safety officer

The health and safety department is one of the most important components of any business or organization. It is the duty of an employer to provide a safe work environment and failing to do this will lead to fines, injuries and possibly even the tragic deaths of workers. Employers are the ones who have the overall responsibility for ensuring safety, but those most responsible for making this reality are health and safety officers. These individuals are responsible for developing, implementing and monitoring a strategy that creates a safe and pleasant working environment, and are therefore a critical part of the success of an organisation’s health and safety program.

The first step to creating a safe working environment is to hire a safety officer who you trust to be capable of fulfilling this goal. Workplace culture starts with management at the top and this is especially true when it comes to safety and creating a safety culture among a workforce. The personal qualities and attributes of such individuals are crucial because they help to inspire employees to achieve a higher level of safety, while maintaining and exceeding productivity requirements. Given the knock-on effects that come from hiring a good safety officer, spending some time to ensure you hire the right safety officer is time well spent.  

Key Attributes of A Good Safety Officer

Like in any other profession, a safety officer’s skills and experience are important. However, while qualifications are crucial, so are harder to define personal qualities which contribute just as much. Click below to view a list of the top key attributes to look for when hiring a ‘good’ safety officer.

  • Genuine concern for people: One must be ready for self-sacrifice rather than being self-centered and self-serving.
  • Leadership by example: Safety officers must be able to walk the talk. In this profession, credibility is very important. Therefore, a good safety officer must be able to practice what he/she preaches; only then people will comply and follow.
  • Hungry for knowledge: In the field of health and safety, continuous learning is necessary. All true professionals will update their knowledge on an ongoing basis through ongoing education so that they are able to provide the company with the latest, safe and effective information.
  • Consistency: There can be no confusion among staff when it comes  to their and their colleagues’ health and safety, so the health and safety officer has to be consistent with their messages and actions.
  • Resilience: With great resolve and single-minded purpose, a ‘good’ safety officer should be able to overcome any challenges.
  • Ability to listen:  The ability to listen is one of the secrets of successful people. One task of a safety officer is to audit. Auditing requires listening and checking the adequacy of systems. Additionally, listening is an effective way to get feedback from workers.

Safety officer

Where to find the right safety officer candidate?

Given that many industries – construction in particular – are dealing with skills shortages, the ideal candidates are always going to be in high demand. Top employers use unique and innovative recruiting practices to gain a competitive advantage in sourcing top talent. Below is a list of recruiting ideas that can be used to find the best safety officer:

  • Alumni: Keep in contact with past employees who have moved on from your organization by creating online alumni groups or hosting alumni events. This creates a circle from which you can draw when you are recruiting workers.
  • On-site events and continuing education: Host workshops, sponsor industry events and area also gives you access to a worker pool.
  • Employees as recruiters: Your current workers can be your greatest tool in finding great candidates. Encourage them to attend networking events and become involved with community organizations, take them to job fairs, and send them to training events.
  • Colleges and universities: Volunteer your employees and leaders to speak at local colleges and universities—either at events or for classes. Develop strategic relationships with faculty so that they can help you identify the best candidates.
  • Job training programs: Start an apprentice-like or unique job training program for the position. Assess program candidates for ability, motivation, willingness to learn, potential and achievement. If this is successful, you gain a large amount of control in the hiring process.

Once you identify candidates you need to have an interview process in place. The number of interviews you want to do may vary but quite often there is an initial screening interview over the phone which leads to a longer and more in-depth interview in person. In this article we also provide 10 interview questions to hire your perfect safety professional.

  • Why do you want this job as a safety officer?
    Candidates should be passionate about their profession and the opportunity.
  • What is your Safety Management philosophy?
    A credible candidate should be able to explain how they perceive their role and provide a general philosophy as explanation.
  • How do you measure success?
    Safety officers have a lot of responsibility and should have a good grasp of how to measure their performance.
  • What have you learned from your mistakes?
    Everyone makes mistakes but what’s important is how we learn and grow. Ideally it won’t be a massive mistake but a candidate who doesn’t admit to ever making a mistake is not credible.
  • What challenges are you looking for in this safety officer position?
    This is a good general question that helps determine the kind of role the candidate wants and whether they are suitable for position on offer.
  • Describe a typical work week as a safety officer?
    This gets into the nuts and bolts of how the candidate performs in their job. You should expect nothing else but a detailed answer that hopefully fills you with confidence.
  • What is your biggest weakness?
    A classic interview question and for a reason. It forces the candidate to be honest and self-aware and encourages them to come up with solutions for their own shortcoming.
  • Why should we hire you?
    This gives the candidate a clear opportunity to present their case including levels of experience, skills and personality.
  • What do you know about our company?
    If a candidate applies for a job, makes it through to an interview and knows nothing about your company, that’s a bad sign. The ideal candidate will have a broad knowledge base of the company.
  • Why do you want to work with us?
    A candidate should be able to present a compelling case, including a detailed knowledge of the business and its values. The right candidate should want to be part of a company’s culture.

Safety officer

Providing clear growth possibilities

Employees perform best when their work environment is conducive to growth. Providing opportunities for growth and progression also leads to greater retention of workers because they see a future with the company. Therefore, managers at all levels can create and sustain a positive work climate, which fosters clear growth possibilities by:

  • Understanding what makes a positive work climate and how it affects performance
  • Improving the work climate by motivating employees and providing challenge, clarity, and support
  • Strengthening communication by listening, understanding, and responding constructively
  • Providing opportunities to learn, create and be innovative

The safety officer should be a high priority position for any employer in heavy industry. They set the tone in creating a safety culture that permeates throughout an organization. This is why it’s so important to get it right when you’re hiring your safety officer. Sometimes to find the best people in a crowded jobs market you have to be innovative with recruiting practices. Once you’ve found a prospective candidate, be sure to have a well thought-out interview process in place so that you can be certain you get the right person.

Now that you have the safety officer you want for your organization, you want to be sure that they stick around. Progression and development strategies are key in reducing turnover and retaining your most valuable employees. The combination of a great safety officer with a comprehensive online contractor management system saves time, reduces injuries and saves you time in the long run.

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Jenny Snook

Jenny Snook is content executive at GoContractor with the job of researching the latest health and safety trends in the heavy industry. Her past-experience includes the research of large museum collections such as the Louth County Museum, many from the industrial age.

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