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August 14, 2008

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Grass is not always greener on other side of the world, OSH salary survey finds

A new survey of the earning capacity of safety and health practitioners has found that the average salary of these professionals is just £25,000 — in New Zealand.

The research, carried out by SHP’s counterpart in NZ — Safeguard magazine — found that NZ$68,214 was the going rate for OSH practitioners, while just 14 per cent of respondents earned more than NZ$90,000 (£33,750).(1) This compares with the average UK practitioner’s salary of £35,500, according to IOSH’s most recent ‘Salary and Attitudes Survey’, carried out in 2005, which also found that 43.5 per cent of respondents earned more than that figure.

The most lucrative sectors in New Zealand are construction and utilities, with the average salary for practitioners in the former reaching NZ$78,000 (£28,500). In the UK, the average is £37,200 — the best-paid sector on this side of the world is still the oil and gas industry, with an average of almost £58,000. Other better-earning sectors down under were health care, government, and manufacturing.

Commented Safeguard managing editor, Peter Bateman: “No one goes into health and safety for the money, or so it is widely believed. A career as a health and safety practitioner offers other, less tangible rewards, chief among which is the knowledge that one’s efforts help save lives. However, most of us wish to be fairly rewarded for our work.”

The Kiwi survey also concluded that qualifications boost earning potential, though not hugely. The highest percentage of respondents — 19.4 per cent — held a primary degree (BA) as their highest qualification, while a further 13.9 per cent had gone on to achieve a higher degree. The 2005 IOSH survey found that holding an MPhil or PhD could take UK practitioners’ pay past the £50,000 mark, while those with a BA could expect an average of around £37,000. Of the IOSH survey respondents, 37 per cent were qualified to degree level, and a further 19 per cent had postgraduate qualifications.

Neil Jones, of Macmillan Davies Hodes, which carried out the IOSH survey, said salaries in the UK have gone up in the intervening three years, mainly thanks to the growing understanding among practitioners and employers that taking health and safety seriously is good for business — but it’s not enough. Added Neil: “Salaries are still generally significantly lower than deserved and that is a reflection of the fact that the majority of businesses still regard SH&E as a cost centre, and focus too much on legislative compliance rather than looking for opportunities to be more competitive in the market and win more contracts by virtue of their SH&E performance.”

Given the less-than-stellar salaries earned in New Zealand (the overall average is NZ$35,000-40,000 — £13,000-15,000)(2) many professionals elect to cross the Tasman Sea to antipodean neighbour, Australia, where OSH practitioners earn an average of AUS$76,800 (£35,866).(3) Indeed, one respondent to the survey said: “There’s no incentive to remain in NZ. My colleagues in Australia earn 50 per cent more than me.”

According to Australian white-collar construction recruitment specialist Owen Goodhead, MD of Hill McGlynn, employers in some states are now so keen to employ Kiwis they regularly fly them over for interviews. He added: “There have been some months where 25 per cent of the construction professionals placed by our Townsville or Perth offices may be direct imports from NZ.” Most of the demand in Australia is from the resources sector or the infrastructure boom, both of which look set to continue for the next few years at least.

To find out more about the NZ survey, and to see a selection of anonymous comments by respondents, click here

1 All currency conversions calculated on 15 August 2008

2 http://www.workingin-newzealand.com

3 http://content.mycareer.com.au/salary-centre/human-resources-recruitment/hr-ohs/australia?s_rid=salary-subsector-location-go

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