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Increase in activity driving increase in H&S recruitment

As construction activity picks up, so too does recruitment in health and safety.

As the construction sector continues to improve across the country, so too does the demand for qualified and experienced health and safety professionals.

“In construction demand has increased for construction safety, site safety, CDM and environmental roles as well,” says Hays head of the health and safety recruitment team Caroline Binns.

“Companies are looking for experienced site safety advisers, experienced site safety managers, CDM co-ordinators with years of experience and established construction safety candidates.”

UK-wide demand

The upturn has had a particular effect on recruitment of health and safety professionals. “As construction has picked up across the UK, particularly in the South-east, all sites need to be 100 per cent compliant and need follow all the rules and regulations,” Ms Binns says.

“Therefore they need to make sure they have the right health and safety staff onsite.”

Whereas 12 months ago, London and the South-east were the only consistent bright spots, the recovery has now spread nationally, with demand increasing all over the UK.

“It’s busy across the UK in construction,” Ms Binns says. “Our offices in the Midlands and the North-west have said the same, that construction safety recruitment has picked up in the last few months, and while it’s perhaps busier and more concentrated in the South-east, it’s similar across the country.”

Personal touch

Although professional qualifications and experience are an important factor, certain personal qualities are also important for health and safety professionals.

“For us, health and safety is a cultural thing; it’s not something you add onto your job; it permeates everything we do,” says Lanes Group framework director for its Thames Water contract Conrad Ashby.

“It’s not just about an individual or a health and safety professional; it’s about everyone being a health and safety professional.

“Health and safety can be a form-filling exercise, but what I’m after is a proactive person with the ability to engage and communicate with the workforce, and understand what it is they do, how they do it, some of the struggles and frustrations they have and helping them overcome them,” says Mr Ashby, whose company won the Health and Safety Excellence category at the recent Construction News Specialists Awards.

Good behaviour

Good health and safety can also be about altering workers behaviours, which takes time and often a personal approach.

“It’s about altering people’s behaviours and ways of working,” Mr Ashby says. “It’s not just about rules and regulations; it’s about helping the field team understand that they do have a responsibility.

“So I’m looking for people who can help create that vision through support and challenge. 

“I also want them to be able to use a variety of tools and techniques to help create that change. We’re heavily focused on technology and making it easier for our guys in the field.”

Site safety advisers will earn in the region of £30,000 to £35,000, while site safety managers and established CDM co-ordinators can expect to be somewhere close to £40,000 to £45,000, Ms Binns says.

“Experience is a big factor, as construction sites are high risk, they’re complicated, all sorts of hazards and non-compliance can come up, so they really need experienced people who know what to look for and know how to keep a construction project safe and compliant, and prevent any accidents and injuries,” she says.

Movement at the top

The return of confidence to the market is also shown by the increase in recruitment at senior level.

“At the senior end there has been more movement, whereas during the recession senior level candidates were staying put,” Ms Binns says. “But now we’re seeing more movement at the top creating more vacancies.”

One area of potential opportunity for candidates is as CDM co-ordinators. “CDM regulations are due to change next year and therefore candidates are thinking that if the regulations are changing they better get out of the CDM industry,” Ms Binns says.

“But the demand for CDM candidates is still there, so it’s a good time to be a CDM co-ordinator and people shouldn’t be put off by the fact the legislation is changing because we still have candidates wanting CDM co-ordinators.”

Health and safety professionals are also playing a greater part in wider business decisions, according to Mr Ashby.

“Health and safety roles have always had to be there, but how they’re engaging with the business is improving and becoming more profound,” he says.

“I think they are a key part to how companies are run and they need to understand how businesses are run to be more effective.

“Good health and safety professionals need passion, energy and a real commitment to making a difference.

“Qualifications help with the understanding of the rules and regulations, but to make a real difference to changing behaviour you need passion, energy and real commitment.”

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