Australia is at a crossroad as the economy enters a new phase of low growth and leaner organisations. The worth of HSE professionals will be measured in terms of adding demonstrated value to the organisation. This will be demonstrated through decreased incidents, lower insurance premiums, better compliance and effective processes. I would say that during the tightening of budgets that HSE professionals who are not able to have an achievable strategic plan with measurable Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) may not been seen as essential to many businesses and HSE departments were often outsourced or reduced in size.
Over the next five years, it is likely that the trend to merge Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) and Environment into single group will accelerate as there are many common elements and much of the demand is caused by compliance to the legislative requirements at a State and Federal level. This will require HSE professionals to continue to upskill and become conversant with a matrix of legislation and corporate governance. The importance of this will see an increased demand for staff with professional qualifications and many universities such as Curtin and RMIT are recognising the trend and offering up to Masters Courses on-line in HSE. It is also likely that the shop floor based safety officer will disappear as the supervisors and managers take responsibilities for their organisation and areas.
In five years, a whole generation of HSE professionals are retiring or changing their full-time roles and there would appear to be a big gap between the 35 year olds and the 55-60 years old in terms of training, knowledge and professionalism. In this period, there should be a significant demand for experienced and qualified senior staff as the overall total numbers of staff decrease. The roles and responsibilities of senior HSE staff are likely to be strategic direction and advice supported by contractors to do actual projects.
At HAZCON, we have recognised that the HSE professionals need to be continually upskilling and in a strong learning environment. We have put in place a very comprehensive initial mentoring and in house training for high achieving graduates supported by a rigorous academic development program. HAZCON currently has a large percentage of staff working on post graduate qualifications as part of our commitment to the HSE workforce of the future.