The importance of workplace health and safety training: IOSH

Article by Natasha Beckett

The importance of workplace health and safety training: IOSH

With rising statistics about workplace accidents, more and more people are being encouraged to enter the world of health and safety careers. There are various routes into it, but to be effective, you need recognised training and qualifications. After all, this is law-bound and you or your superiors can be held responsible for accidents or deaths and be punishable by large fines or prison terms.

Workplace health and safety is, arguably, more important than any other aspect of business. Employers have a duty of care, under the Health and Safety at Work Act (1974) (HASAWA) to provide a safe working environment for employees, visitors and contractors. Failing to do so is punishable in various forms, from improvement and prohibition notices, which interrupt or stop business, to large financial penalties, to prison terms in extreme circumstances.

It makes perfect business and moral sense for all staff to be health and safety aware. Everyone is responsible for making the workplace a safe environment, and we have a duty of care to keep each other safe by not only working safely but reporting any risks and challenging unsafe behaviour.

Companies should ensure that all staff are at least aware of their duties to health and safety, training as many people as possible and having dedicated staff responsible for safety on a formal basis.

IOSH courses are the perfect starting point for those wishing to pursue a career in health and safety, or for those with a responsibility for the health and safety of others in the workplace. The Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH) has over 44,000 individual members and spans over one hundred and thirty countries – making it the largest chartered body for health and safety professionals in the world.

IOSH was formed in 1945 and quickly established itself as a hallmark of quality for health and safety in the workplace. The foundation of its Code of Conduct is for a working world that is safe, healthy and sustainable.

IOSH Working Safely

Woman Studying

There are various courses to appeal to everyone, but if you want an overall view of health and safety responsibilities in the workplace, then the best starting point is the IOSH Working Safely course. Internationally recognised, this course is a great leap-board into taking your health and safety training and career forward.

There was a time when this course was confined to the four walls of a classroom, or a training room within your company, but no longer. As with most things these days, this training course is available to complete online. Whether you chose to study online, or in a real-life classroom set-up, the material and the qualification is the same. You will get the same certificate regardless of your method of study.

General workers, office staff and anything up to Supervisor level will benefit from this course. As this is aimed at everyone in the workplace, you will learn the basics of health and safety responsibility.

It is a level one qualification and is a short course to complete – either one full day in a classroom or 4-8 hours online. There are no exams. Instead, you complete a multiple-choice assessment at the end of your training. Some online providers even give you two chances, so it is worth enquiring about this before you sign up.

To start, you will gain an overall understanding of why staff must work safely. This will look at incident, accident, and workplace fatality statistics. It can be something of a shock to realise just how many lives are lost in the workplace, along with the number of life-changing accidents. This is tactical, once you comprehend just how serious health and safety is, you are compelled to learn just what you can do to contribute to it.

With these grizzly figures under your belt, you will move on to learn the difference between a hazard and a risk. Many people get these confused, but when you know, it makes sense. A hazard is something with the ability to cause harm, whilst a risk is the likelihood of a person suffering harm from a hazard.


Once you have mastered this, then you will be involved in spotting hazards and associating the risks, while learning how to put controls into place to either eliminate the hazard or reduce its impact (risk).

Without going into too much detail here, it is intended to give you a flavour of what you will learn to do. If you hadn’t previously given that much thought to health and safety in the past, you will find this an interesting activity and it will certainly make you more risk-aware.

Once you are familiar with handling hazards, the next step is to improve overall safety performance. Taking into consideration all that you have learnt so far, you will find out how to incorporate these risk controls and general improvements to make your workplace a far safer place.

IOSH Managing Safely

Woman studying

The Managing Safely certificate is the next step, perfect for anyone with line-responsibility towards others in the workplace, from team leaders, supervisors to managers. At level two, it is also an excellent grounding for those planning to go further in their studies and complete a NEBOSH course. It offers managers the confidence to push towards health and safety excellence.

Expanding on what you learnt during the Working Safely course, this course will take you deeper into the moral, legal and financial reasons to manage health and safety. It will encourage you to think about safety on a higher level and take more responsibility for those around you and those you are responsible for. This is both theory and practical. Assessment is in the form of a multiple-choice assessment and a real-life risk assessment carried out in your workplace.

Accident and incident investigation is part of a manager’s responsibilities, and here you will learn how to carry this out effectively. You will learn about accident causation theories, the difference between an accident and a near-miss, how to respond to accidents, and how to report to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) using the RIDDOR legislation (Reporting of Injuries, Diseases Dangerous Occurrences Regulations).

Human factors is a topic that should interest most people. Thinking about the psychology behind what we do, this subject investigates how people behave, and what causes them to make shortcuts in safety, ultimately leading to accidents and near-misses. It also looks closely at safety cultures. This is a top-down concept and guides you to consider the safety message that the people at Director level are sending to their workforce. If they are not demonstrating good morals and safe practices, how are the rest of the company expected to behave?

You will learn about people’s differing perception of risk and how to take this into account to ensure your safety message is getting through to everyone – even those who think “it will never happen to me”.

Risk assessment is taken a step further in this course. You will read specific cases and be asked to think about the risk assessment in readiness for completing your own – as an assessment on completion of the course. You will learn how to use the risk rating and calculator, forming deeper knowledge on how to complete a thorough risk assessment. Your Managing Safely certificate doesn’t expire, but IOSH offers refresher courses that they recommend you take every three years, as is a perfect way to keep current and up-to-date.

Whatever your level of responsibility for health and safety is, most people will benefit from completing one of these courses. They not only provide a great opportunity to gain a general awareness of health and safety in the workplace, but they are also an incredibly good starting point in terms of gaining higher qualifications. Indeed, the IOSH Managing Safely course leads very neatly into studying the NEBOSH General Certificate in Occupational Health and Safety – which is the qualification most employers seek as a minimum whilst recruiting for health and safety staff.

Article by Natasha Beckett


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