Technical Officer, Health and Safety

One of the most important areas of environmental protection is Health and Safety.
Technical officers develop a keen sense of what is needed to make sure that the workplace is safe. This applies to both workers and any members of the public who might visit areas with potential risks and hazards. Technical officers help to reduce and prevent workplace accidents by advising employers on health and welfare conditions in their factories, offices and other work sites. To see the problem before the accident happens and it is too late!  This means that technical officers will spend a good deal of their time visiting local work premises, advising on conditions, investigating accidents and any complaints they might have had from employees or the public about health and safety issues.  Together with colleagues in the environmental services department their aim is to promote a safe and healthy environment for workers, visitors and the surrounding community.

Work Environment
The work is confined to the area covered by the local authority within which officers will travel to inspect offices, shops, warehouses, public houses, cafes, restaurants, sports clubs and stadia, theatres, motor vehicle tyre and exhaust centres and so on. Often they will not know what to expect, except that there could well be dirt, noise, varying weather conditions, aggressive employers and danger. It may involve working in isolated situations and walking and climbing carrying test equipment. But it will never be boring - and there is smart protective clothing provided as well as the full backing of the authority.  Technical officers normally work about 36 hours per week with occasional anti social hours, but there is no shift working.

Daily Activities
As health and safety inspections are required on a daily basis, technical officers may well carry their equipment with them all the time. They will need electrical test instruments, sound level meters, thermometers, microwave leakage testers, cameras and video cameras etc. In helping to improve the quality of life in the workplace, the technical officer gets a great deal of job satisfaction. Although there may be a wide range of problems to deal with - which cannot always be solved with one visit - business and industry managers welcome the support and guidance they receive. The work might involve any of the following:

  • monitoring asbestos removal contractors; 
  • prosecution of employers for breaking the law; 
  • working with other bodies on special projects, for example investigations into back pain and other repetitive strain injuries ( RSI ) risks; 
  • reducing the risks of slips and falls; 
  • testing electrical electricals; 
  • working with employers to set up an inspection programme and risk rating system with defined time-scales on a weekly/daily basis; 
  • writing reports and making recommendations.

Technical officers are expected to be able to use their initiative, have technical knowledge, work alone or as a member of a team in carrying out the overall local authority policy on environmental health. This means that they will liaise with colleagues in their own department and other public service employees at all levels, the fire brigade, the police, NHS, The Health And Safety Executive; local MPs and councillors; managers and company directors. But it is not a heavy handed inspectorial role that they play. They are seen as part of the solution not part of the problem.

Skills & Interests
To do this job well you would need to have:

  • ability to deal with detail; 
  • practical ability; 
  • a caring nature; 
  • project management skills; 
  • head for figures; 
  • confidence and a 'thick skin'; 
  • ability to get on with people from different backgrounds and professional levels; 
  • written and verbal communication skills; 
  • tact and impartiality; 
  • methodical approach to fact finding.

Dealing with people is a vital part of this job and being patient, calm, logical, persuasive and sensitive to those who often have suffered loss or injury is essential. Health and safety issues need handling with firm but fair judgement and the technical officer must learn how to cope with aggression without being aggressive. They must be seen to make a difference to the health and safety of the workplace. Having previous scientific and technical experience is helpful.

Entry Requirements
Practical experience and qualification, for example in electrical work, is usually required.  City and Guilds NEBOSH Diploma in Occupational Safety and Health (part2).  On the job training is expected towards further vocational qualifications and professional development through a professional organisation, like Institute of Occupational Safety & Health for example.

Future Prospects & Opportunities
This is a growing area of work with wide ranging opportunities for promotion to senior, principal and chief officer posts in environmental health. However, movement to other authorities to gain a broader experience is often required first.

Further Information & Services
Chartered Institute of Environmental Health
Institute of Occupational Safety and Health
National Examination Board in Occupational Safety and Health

You may find further information about this area of work through Careers Wales ( or in your local library, careers office or school careers library.

Careers Wales have produced a Spotlight article on careers in STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths):  

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