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So you want to be a Safety Consultant

July 23, 2013

Safety Consultant ISQEM

By Wayne J Harris

How many times have you got to the end of the week and thought about leaving your present employer and starting your own business?   The dream of being a safety consultant with no rules to follow and a life of financial independence well, in reality that’s not what normally happens.        

Anyone can call themselves a safety consultant, but that does not mean they will be successful just because they have been working in a safety role for many years.  A real consultant needs to have developed and possess very specific qualities and skills in order to be able to work effectively.

If you’re looking at establishing yourself as a safety consultant you need to think very carefully on your approach to starting a new business venture.  Now a health, safety, environmental (HSE) consultant is often described in simple terms as “a competent adviser who can offer a HSE service or range of services” which in reality we all know is a very open statement.

When deciding which type of consultancy you wish to set up you will have to make the decision on which route you want to take; either to be a specialist or a generalist.  Now this is not just a flip of the coin type of decision, you will need to base it on many considerations.

But first of all let’s look at the two common types of safety consultant we would come across in today’s marketplace; the management specialist, and the generalist safety consultant.

Safety Management Consultant

A safety management consultant requires a high-level of skills and unique qualities that will allow them to work in all industries and areas of (HSE) management.  Skills will often include strategy, change management, marketing, business management, finance and technology, etc. 

Safety consultants who work at this level often have extensive experience spread over many years across a diverse range of industries at a senior level.  This type of consultant would be expected to deliver business added value to an organisation.   Generally they produce business risk management solutions and can contribute to large scale organisational safety cultural changes and improvements.

Generalist Safety Consultants

The generalist safety consultant will often focus on one or two areas of expertise, for instance in construction or manufacturing.  They general y offer a narrow range of HSE services and supplement most of their income by conducting routine HSE training courses.

We often find that generalist consultants have spent the majority of their time in the same industry sector and gain knowledge from the trades and then expanded into the safety profession.   The vast majority of safety consultants would fall into this category.

Working as a safety consultant

As a consultant you will be constantly working with new people and in different companies. You will be looked upon as a safety expert and expected to come up with safety solutions to help fix or improve a company’s culture or even reduce their incidents rates.  People will definitely expect you to have a practical approach that is cost effective and sustainable in the long term.   

Having the ability to solve problems is paramount so, having strong influencing skills and being able to come up with solutions or ideas based on logical reasoning and business management is a prerequisite to becoming a safety consultant.

Do you still want to be independent?

First of all consulting is often long hours and requires a safety consultant to deliver work to a deadline under various perimeters.  You will need to take into account that you will often be working on your own with very little or even no back-up support.  Equally important is having a service-oriented personality and approach. 

You may be fantastic at quoting safety practices and legislation, but if you can’t meet the client’s expectations you will not last long. So when choosing  a career in consultancy you will need to consider if your personality, skills, and general business acumen is at a sufficient level that enables you to succeed.

In my next article I will be covering the subject of starting a safety consultancy and the areas you will need to address to be successful in your future career.

Down load as PDF   So you want to be a Safety Consultant

About the Author:  Wayne J Harris

Wayne is a highly regarded international specialist in developing corporate risk and HSE management systems with over 30 years’ experience within high-risk environments. He has advised major organisations both private and governmental, on key issues of strategy and organisational risk and safety management. Wayne’s experience in dealing within the international arena and multiple cultures from Europe, Asia-Pacific, to the Middle East has given him a comprehensive understanding of the global risk issues facing an organisation in today’s business economy. He has held various senior corporate roles, and has sat on the Board of Directors of several companies including a Chamber of Commerce.    

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  1. Steve permalink

    Even though safety is a legal requirement its still a grudge purchase for many businesses – you’d better have good sales skills . If you cannot reach your target market and sell yourself and your services you wont have much of a business…..

  2. Adeduro Ruth permalink

    Excellent Mr Wayne, am always inspired by your articles. Diversity is the sole of consultancy. Is either you are there or out of the game. As a consultant people will look up to you as an expert on the job, if you can not give them the answer to their problem(s) or not delivering service(s) as at when expected, an organization loose confidence in the service of such consultant.

  3. Kim Hedges permalink

    Interesting topic, I have recently qualified with nebosh certificates, but I have been unable to get a job where I live in Bristol, UK. If somebody becomes a consultant, how do you get business?

    • Hi Kim, Wayne will be touching on this subject in one of his articles in the near future. We wish you luck in your present job search.

  4. Thanks for the comments everyone. I hope you will enjoy my next article concerning safety consultants which will be posted within the next few days.

  5. I choose a different approach to starting my business, which was to target niche markets such a fun and interactive training courses for schools, estate agents and other unexplored sectors, which had very little systems or experience. And, instead of using existing systems and procedures adopted by the majority I challenged everything that was said. This initially got me into a lot of trouble as I rubbed up senior legislators and governing bodies who thought compliance was everything.

    However, having stuck to my new approach, I now have a loyal bunch of customers who are marketing my new ideas and concepts for me. In fact we now have a full order book to take us through until late 2014 and turning people away.

    So when thinking about your preferred route, my message is explore all the options before getting roped into the heard mentality and if you have a vision for something new and strongly believe in it, go for it, “screw it lets do”, it as Richard Branson would say.

  6. Sandra permalink

    Am starting a safety consulting company here in Nigeria, would be looking forward to your next article as I need all the help I can to push me through this phase.

  7. Arese permalink

    As usual, an inspiring article which is timely for me

  8. Wan Syahrul Faris permalink

    Good and keep us aware and improved further

  9. I am registering my safety consultancy firm here in Kenya this month.The article has opened my eyes in many ways

  10. Excellent Article here. This is my first time on you blog and I can clearly tell you that am inspired.
    Consultancy job especially in Safety, Is not what anyone who is not ready to solve specific problems should rush into. Value proposition is the soul of consulting.

    Looking forward to another interesting aritcle from you .

  11. ROLAND BENSTOWE permalink

    Thank you Mr Harris, quit insightful. I like to get your follow up articles to this one.

  12. Future Mokgosi permalink

    Thanx Mr Harris.Very inspiring.I registered my Safety Consulting Business last year here in South Africa.Busy marketing it.

  13. paulo guterres permalink

    Thank you for such useful information. We are planning to have a safety consultant in Timor-Leste. It would be grateful if I can have your next articles for helping us to start.

  14. how do I source clients as a Safety Consultant, in South Africa.

  15. Indeed, leaving your current job and starting your own business (as a Safety Consultant) is a big step. This blog is really helpful and provides useful tips if someone would like to go that direction. I am looking forward to your article about starting safety consultancy!

    • Hi Shirley, an article was published a couple of years back, but is just being updated and will be issued in 2017. We will make sure we send you a copy.

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