10 Steps to Jump-Start Your Career in WHS

What are Your Dreams for a WHS Career?
From the very beginning of dreaming about working in Work Health and Safety to fulfilling that dream, here are 10 steps to follow to help you land the WHS role of your dreams.

✅ Health and Safety Representative (HSR): Becoming an HSR in your workplace is the best entry level step to working in Work Health and Safety. The HSR 5-day training and subsequent 2-3 day training courses (depending on your state’s requirements) give a good grounding in WHS legislation. Alternatively, if becoming a HSR isn’t feasible, volunteer to become trained as a Fire Warden for your workplace or volunteer for Emergency Services. On a resume these actions show that you are willing to put yourself out to save lives and isn’t that what Work Health and Safety is ultimately about?

✅ Cert IV WHS: Start off your WHS career by doing the best training for the job. Various Certificate IV WHS courses are offered face-to-face and online. Start by googling “Cert IV WHS” and see what is available online and in your state. Courses start from around $390 but can go up to $1700. Often (as in life) you get what you pay for so do your research before you sign up.

✅ White Card: You will need a White Card to work in construction and mining. Generally it is a 6-hour safety course and is an invaluable insight into the WHS policies and procedures that you’ll need to know working in the industry. It can be done online but again do your research first and make sure it is a reputable course. Employers are very aware of “sketchy” White Card online courses and are more likely to employ people with qualifications from more highly regarded institutions. You will be off to a good start if you do yours with a reputable training provider.

✅ LinkedIn: Firstly, it is absolutely essential when you are looking for work in the WHS field to have a LinkedIn profile. LinkedIn is a terrific way to connect with people, particularly with professionals already working in the industry. Secondly, change your profile to “looking for positions (or opportunities) in WHS.” Thirdly, join WHS Groups, such as HSE Knowledge Sharing, Australian Safety Network and Health and Safety Consultants and Trainers. Fourthly, connect with other group members who are WHS professionals. Fifthly, send each of your connections a polite message introducing yourself saying that you are looking for assistance in getting work in the industry, to ask if they might know of any available positions and asking them to let you know if there are any that come up in your state or anyone that you might be able to contact in their industry who could help.

✅ Update your Resume: SEEK has many good tips on this but you can also “seek out” a career advisor to help you with your resume. A good career advisor can even help on occasions with a leg-up into a WHS position with contacts that they already have in recruitment. Good career advisors who specialise in mining are literally worth their weight in gold (or copper, coal or iron)! I certainly owe my current success many times over to a great career advisor who helped me to refresh my resume. Since her efforts 5 years ago I have rarely been unsuccessful in gaining an interview.

✅ Business Card: Get a business card printed ($10 for 100 cards is a great investment in yourself). As a start, check out “VistaPrint” online. Keep the card simple. Highlight the areas you have worked in and roles you would like, e.g. Manufacturing and Mining HSR – seeking WHS work. Add your name, telephone number and email (and update your old school one – don’t use yogi_93@hotmail.com anymore!) Upgrade to a professional email on gmail, Hotmail, yahoo or outlook using your name as your brand.

✅ Work that Resume: Send your updated resume and business card to all of the industry giants in locations you would like to work, emphasising your WHS skills & knowledge as a HSR and/or as a worker, demonstrating your interest in occupational health and safety. All the major industry sectors – Health, Education and Training, Warehousing, Transport and Logistics, Manufacturing, Fabrication, Mining/Resources, Construction, Utilities, Aged Care, Fast-Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG), Consumer Packaged Goods (CPG), Pharmaceuticals, Agriculture, Supermarkets and Retail, Finance and Banking – require WHS policies and procedures and need at least one WHS professional on salary or as a third party consultant. Although you might not be there yet, keep gaining experience and continue to undertake training in WHS. Auditing skills are highly valued as a WHS professional. Keep adding new skills to your resume. If you’re serious about this career change consider undertaking tertiary study, especially if you wish to eventually move up the ranks into WHS management.

✅ Recruiters: Send your resume and business card to all recruiters and labour-hire companies – particularly to those who recruit for WHS personnel in high-risk work like Transport, Mining and Construction, which are more likely to require a constant source of labour. Labour Hire companies include Hays, Labourforce Australia, Chandler McLeod, Allstaff and Workpac.

A great way to start is to undertake shutdown work, when mines need to shut down the plant to do required maintenance. For this they need WHS people in a short amount of time to work across a broad range of maintenance projects.

✅ Networking: Network through people you know working in the industry, as well as attending WHS Conferences and Events. Utilities and Mining often invite experts to speak at sponsored events on WHS topics, like the latest research in Protective Personal Equipment (PPE) or advancements in risk methodology or hazard detection. Don’t forget to work that business card and let them people know that you are currently looking for work opportunities.

✅ STAR Interview Questions and Answers: Once you are successful in gaining an interview, you will need to be thoroughly prepared to be able to answer the tricky behavioural interview questions, such as “Tell us about a time you tried to implement a WHS strategy in the workplace and failed”. The way to answer these questions is to have customised STAR scenarios already prepared.

S.T.A.R. is an acronym for Situation-Task-Action-Results:

  1. Situation means set the scene, describe where it took place and what was happening at the time (think of who, what, where, when and how)
  2. Task means to describe the challenge or safety issue
  3. Action means what action you had to take to resolve the issue – describe exactly what you had to do
  4. Results means what was the final outcome of your actions – how did it fix the issue long-term and what was the reaction of workers and management? How did you personally contribute to the positive outcome?
Think of all your interactions in the workplace that made it a safer place for you and other workers and prepare a selection of at least ten “STAR Success Stories” for your interviews. Translate these stories into STAR scenarios, then write these down on your phone and email them to yourself or write them into a notebook, read them through often and learn them off by heart before your next interview.

Success
With these top ten tips, you can be sure you will be on the payroll in your own WHS role before you know it – it’s just a matter of persistence and perseverance.

Many of you who take these tips to heart will soon have your own WHS success stories to tell, having followed your dreams to your dream WHS job!


Gaynor Renz, WHSE Compliance and Risk Expert, WorkPac/BHP
Gaynor has a strong background in WHS, Risk and Compliance, with many years in mining, construction, fabrication and utilities (electricity) and prior to that, a solid background in compliance and leadership positions in the education and training sector. She has a Bachelor’s degree in Education, Diploma in Work Health and Safety, Cert IV in WHS and Training and Assessment and a Graduate Diploma in Social Psychology of Risk (SPoR) completed with Dr Rob Long in Canberra. She continues to study SPoR in Master Classes held by the Centre for Leadership and Learning and Risk (CLLR). Currently she is working in multi-million dollar mining projects as a WHS and Risk Consultant.

You can follow Gaynor on LinkedIn here >

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