OHS in growth phase

Tuesday, 21 August, 2012

When workers across various non-mining sectors are concerned about job losses and company closures, the professionals in the workplace health and safety industry seem to be having strong career prospects. Factors such as changes to the occupational health and safety (OHS) laws, continued importance of workplace health and safety, and a greater focus on due diligence have contributed to the growth of the sector. Read on to find out more about the recruitment trends in the OHS industry.

The average salary package across the OHS sector is $133,854 - a whopping 90% higher than the average Australian salary of $69,992 (ABS), according to a recent survey conducted by Australian recruitment firm National Safety Recruitment (NSR).

The survey also found that an increasing number of employers have a strong commitment to safety with 77% of respondents saying their “employer is committed to safety” and only 13% disagreeing or neutral. “In recent years the focus for organisations has been centred on the concept of zero harm, but until now fears about reduced productivity have outweighed organisations’ efforts to minimise OHS risk.

“Attractive salary packages are enticing people into OHS with superannuation above 9% (25%) and bonuses (82%) on offer.

In this article, National Safety Recruitment’s Operations Manager, Matthew Annear, shares his thoughts on the current trends in OHS recruitment and the impact of the OHS harmonisation on the job market. Annear also provides some tips to assist employers in attracting and retaining top OHS talent.

OHS trends

While the market has a strong candidate pool available, there is a strong competition to attract top talent. A small pool of candidates with the right qualifications, experience, personality, cultural/behavioural change management abilities is able to pick and choose between the best vacancies currently available with employers fighting to attract and retain this rare breed of OHS professionals. On the flip side, a significant number of candidates (mainly on the eastern seaboard) are struggling to return to the workforce following the redundancies that have faced the OHS sector in general over the past few years.

Due to general volatility in the wider economy, several organisations - predominantly small to medium-sized - are now seeking to appoint short-term contractors or fixed-term contract employees. Many employers are reluctant to make the commitment of employing workers on a permanent basis until they have a clearer picture of the global outlook of the economy.

It is proving to be a challenging time for many entry-level/graduate candidates who are seeking to enter the job market. NSR is noticing that fewer employers are seeking to appoint trainees or graduates in the OHS industry. Most organisations that are committing to employ a permanent resource are opting to employ experienced OHS professionals with a proven track record of achieving solid outcomes and are able to demonstrate the ‘value add’ they are able to deliver.

Impact of regulation changes on the job market

The changes to the workplace health and safety laws have forced many medium and large businesses to review and streamline their existing operations. This resulted in an initial increase in demand of experienced professionals with knowledge of the proposed harmonisation changes. However, as some states’ commitment to harmonisation started wavering in 2011, the demand has decreased or stabilised. NSR believes that large organisations that require more resources to achieve transition are reluctant to invest until there is a collective commitment from all jurisdictions.

Talent attraction and retention

NSR’s top piece of advice to employers for attracting OHS talent is to move fast and avoid procrastination. Top talent is being snapped up quickly and many employers are losing ideal candidates due to prolonged delays in the recruitment processes. This may be a reflection of the general reluctance and hesitation in the wider business community due to the state of the economy. However, the best candidates will not wait for organisations to make decisions when there are number of promising opportunities to choose from.

Secondly, employers need to compensate existing employees based on the skills they develop and milestones they achieve. These days, candidates know their worth and will not hesitate in taking other jobs if they believe they are being undercompensated or undervalued. Benchmarking your organisation against similar organisations will ensure that employees stay committed and focused on achieving positive outcomes. This can be done in a number of ways, including utilising NSR’s annual salary survey that was released in June 2012. With data collected form over 13,500 professionals from 740 organisations, the report provides an in-depth view of current remuneration packages across all levels in a wide range of industries. A copy of this report can be requested by contacting NSR. In the current climate, job security is one of the key issues concerning candidates. NSR believes that transparency with employees is crucial. If employees believe that an organisation’s ongoing viability is in jeopardy, candidates will not hesitate to seek new opportunities.

What’s hot and what’s not

There is a strong demand for OHS professionals across different industry sectors. However, the highest demand is in the resources and energy sector. Employment opportunities in the commercial and residential construction sectors are declining as the sector has been hit hard by the collapse of a number of key construction and construction services organisations. Surprisingly, the demand from the manufacturing sector, especially FMCG organisations, is still strong. NSR believes the main reason for the strong demand in the FMCG sector is the fact that the sector generally remunerates at the lower end of the pay scale for OHS professionals. The turnover, therefore, has been high as candidates move to high-paying industry sectors.

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