Editor, UBM

June 22, 2016

Get the SHP newsletter

Daily health and safety news, job alerts and resources

How to sabotage your health and safety career


Safety and Health Expo delegates discovered a handy template for occupational oblivion in the training and career zone, today.

“This is an idiot’s guide,” director of HSE’s recruitment network, Chris Rowlands, told day two’s How to make yourself completely and utterly unemployable session. “Because you’d have to be an idiot to do all of these things.

“I’ve been recruiting in the health and safety sector for 12 years, and one of the questions I get asked most often is, ‘Why didn’t I get that job?’” he told delegates. “So part of this is about self-assessment, and recognising the things that turn employers off.”

So, for those determined to make themselves unemployable, the ten key tricks are these:

  1. Don’t invest in yourself

There were new qualifications coming out and endless ways for health and safety practitioners to develop themselves, he said.

“The easiest way to make yourself unemployable is to not do those things.”

  1. Rely solely on qualifications

“This is the counter to point one,” he told the session. “Thinking that, because you’ve got a NEBOSH diploma or you’re a chartered member of IOSH, that it automatically makes you employable.”

  1. Be ‘that’ person

“Everyone’s worked with someone who’s difficult,” he said. “It could be arrogance, or hot-headedness, but if you’re seen as a difficult character then the engagement between safety and the people you’re trying to keep safe becomes harder.”

Although sometimes controversial, psychometric profiling could often be useful, he stressed. “It’s far from an exact science, but it can be a useful way of holding up that mirror to yourself.”

  1. Be the voice of doom

 “There are lots of conversations around the topic of ‘is safety broken?’” he said. “But if you take that further, and if the only vision you give people is the avoidance of something horrible, then that’s not particularly inspiring.”

While this kind of approach was inevitably the right tool at times, it was much more inspiring to “use the carrot, rather than the stick” he advised.

“Otherwise you can risk really putting board members and others off.”

  1. Think narrow

While specialism and sector knowledge were “absolutely important”, it was also vital to think outside of that, he warned.

“In terms of your own career, it doesn’t pay. You shouldn’t just hang your hat on one industrial sector and an economic outlook that you can’t control.”

  1. Think your role is unique

While many people were the sole health and safety employee in their company, it was vital that practitioners did not fall into the trap of thinking that their role was so unique that no one else could understand it, he cautioned.

“You need to be pushing in the same direction as everyone else in your organisation, and stay in line with the overall aims and ambitions of the business. Employers will often say to me, ‘the last person we had just said no all the time. We want someone who’s proactive.’ If you end up shutting your business down then no one is going to be employed.”

  1. Treat employees as a risk

“That’s not to say you shouldn’t see them as a potential risk. But don’t de-humanise people, and don’t just see them as another cog in the wheel.”

It is important to remember that employees did the right thing 99% of the time, he said. “It’s about replicating the good things.”

  1. Ignore technology

“The robots are coming,” he said. “Trust me.”

While automation was increasing all the time, it was also vital not to ignore technology on a micro-level, within your own organisation. “If you do, you’re going to be a bit of a dinosaur. It’s about committing to being aware of it.”

  1. Do as I say, not as I do

“I’m not saying that health and safety practitioners don’t follow their own rules, but it’s the quickest way to make yourself unemployable if that is the case.”

The increased focus on health and wellbeing also had to be borne in mind, he stated.

“If you put in place a healthy eating programme and you’re seen tucking into a McDonald’s every lunchtime then that’s going to undermine everything you do. If you implement a wellbeing strategy you need to live and breathe it.”

  1. Be invisible

Employees needed to push their own personal brand within their business, he urged delegates. “Otherwise there’s a real danger that you’ll become invisible and the good work you do will go unnoticed. One thing our industry’s very good at is the bad news stories, the fines, the prosecutions. You should be doing case studies of the things you’ve implemented.

“Then you can say, ‘This is something I’m incredibly proud of, something that makes me unique.’”

Advance your career in health and safety

Browse hundreds of jobs in health and safety, brought to you by SHP4Jobs, and take your next steps as a consultant, health and safety officer, environmental advisor, health and wellbeing manager and more.

Or, if you’re a recruiter, post jobs and use our database to discover the most qualified candidates.

Related Topics

Notify of

Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
7 years ago

I Want to know the requirements you will need if I want to learn more about health and safety.

Alan Dall
Alan Dall
7 years ago


You need to source some introductory courses then perhaps move onto internal auditing. IA gives you a great understanding of how systems work.

Good luck.