Study of 600 health and safety professionals shows industry is under pressure

  • 80 per cent think that the Government doesn’t understand what health and safety professionals do
  • 58 per cent think David Cameron’s aim of ‘killing off health and safety culture’ will lead to an increase in accidents
  • Just 13 per cent of health and safety professionals are under the age of 35.

A survey of over 600 health and safety professionals by specialist recruitment consultancy JAM has revealed that 80 per cent think that the Government does not understand what they do.

A further 58 per cent said that David Cameron’s stated aim of “killing off health and safety culture for good” was likely to lead to an increase in health and safety incidents in the workplace.

The survey also showed that the sector is in danger of facing a future skills shortage, with just 13 per cent of respondents under the age of 35, and only 0.5 per cent under the age of 25. The majority (40 per cent) of those questioned fell in the 46 -55 age category.

Almost 70 per cent of those questioned said that they believed that young people were deterred from a career in health and safety because of negative media coverage. The survey showed that the sector has already been hard hit by the recession, with 41 per cent of respondents saying that their budget had been cut this year and nearly half (45 per cent) stating that they felt that their company did not see  health and safety as being ‘business critical’ during times of recession.

For this reason many health and safety professionals are struggling to find work. Of those surveyed, just 52 per cent were currently working in a health and safety roles at the moment, with 77 per cent citing redundancy or a lack of suitable roles available as the reason.

Over half (54.4 per cent) of those currently working in a health and safety role said that their job has become more difficult since the economic downturn, with staff cuts and reductions in departmental funding cited as the main reasons.

Similarly, only half of those surveyed said they felt valued by their current employer at present and 72 per cent thought that the recession had adversely affected wages in the industry.

Half of those questioned cited misconceptions about what they do, and a lack of support from senior members of staff as the most challenging part of working in health and safety.

The survey found that there was a slightly higher concentration of health and safety professionals in the South East and North West of the country, and that 14 per cent of health and safety professionals on JAM’s database are now working abroad, suggesting that a ‘brain drain’ of qualified health and safety professionals is already taking place.

Upcoming changes to the administration of health and safety regulation in the UK met with a lukewarm reception. Just 35 per cent said that they thought the Löfstedt report – which made recommendations aimed at reducing the regulatory burden on businesses would have a positive effect on the industry.

Over 40 per cent of those surveyed supported the Health and Safety Executive’s (HSE) Cost Recovery Scheme, however the respondents had mixed views on its likely effects.  Half agreed that it may encourage employees and health and safety professionals to not log incidents, and 40 per cent were concerned that it may make businesses more hostile to the HSE.

Similarly, 70 per cent of those surveyed felt that the closure of the HSE’s Infoline would have a negative impact on safety, with companies less likely to adhere to regulation because of a lack of readily available information.

Sheikh Ullah, health and safety team leader at JAM Recruitment, said: “Health and safety is a difficult job market at the moment, with many employers shedding health and safety staff and wages being continually driven down in what is very much an employer-led market.

“This in turn will not provide an organisation with the stability that’s needed within health and safety roles. A major concern is that when the market picks up, will professionals be tempted to leave their current roles for a position that pays at the level they were originally at before the recession

“Another concern is the ageing talent pool in Health & Safety. The fact that just 13 per cent of Health & Safety professionals are under the age of 35 suggests that Health & Safety as a career isn’t getting the right exposure to the younger generation.

“Attitudes towards health and safety tend to go in cycles. It is likely that shedding health and safety employees will lead to a rise in incidents, leading employers to re-evaluate their resourcing.

“Despite the very difficult conditions that many health and safety employees are working under, 65 per cent of those surveyed did not see a rise in incidents this year, showing that health and safety professionals have a very important role to play in accident prevention, and the value of this is largely recognised.

“Similarly, it is likely that the Cost Recovery Scheme will have a positive effect of health and safety recruitment, with many employers likely to view employing a dedicated health and safety professional better value for money than costly engagement with the HSE.”

Press information:

John Bowes

Citypress

JAM Recruitment Limited

Marsland House

Marsland Road, Sale

Cheshire, UK

Zip: M33 3AQ

Tel: 0161 235 0303

Email: john.bowes@citypress.co.uk

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