How do you obtain a position with an oil and gas company as a safety advisor when you are competing with hundreds of other applicants? Each month, service providers receive many resumes for safety advisor positions, especially in oil-rich Alberta. So, how can you differentiate yourself from the rest of the pack and make it to the top of the pile? If you know what service providers are looking for in a safety advisor, then you will also understand what oil and gas companies are looking for in a safety advisor. Essentially, service providers are a sophisticated extension of an oil company’s human resource department. They act as a buffer between the contract safety and the oil company. They only pick the most suitable candidates, because their reputations are on the line. Succeed as a contract safety advisor working for a service provider and you stand a big chance of getting hired by the oil company you are contracting for.

I had the chance to speak with some of the service providers in Alberta, so I posed the following question. What top three qualifications are you looking for in a safety advisor applicant? Here's what they said.

Experience and Education

There is no substitute for experience. You will find that many great safety professionals have spent time working in a trade or in the field prior to migrating to the health and safety profession. This gives them an unparalleled view of what makes a worker tick and the environment that they work in. Whether you worked as a laborer or as an operator in a steam-assisted gravity drainage (SAGD) plant, it is experience that can be applied to your safety advisor position. Then a great entry-level certificate would be obtaining your National Construction Safety Officer (NCSO) designation. Once you have your NCSO designation it would be prudent to start taking courses for your Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) certificate. The OHS certificate will allow you to qualify for your Canadian Registered Safety Professionals (CRSP) designation. However, it is important to remember that first you must obtain the necessary experience. According to the employers in the field, there are many applicants with the required educational requirements, but they lack the necessary experience to work as a safety advisor. This will effectively place your resume in the non-competitive category.

Soft Skills

Each service provider I spoke with listed this as important as experience. The ability to reason and present yourself in a professional manner. Your verbal and written skills must be excellent to qualify for this type of work. Superior communication skills are a must when interacting with co-workers, sub-contractors, management, operators and field personnel. Often safety advisors are not prepared to deal with difficult personalities. It stretches their ability to communicate. This is where former police officers and medics have an edge over the competition. Be cognizant of your own weaknesses when it comes to reasoning with your peers. Work on those weaknesses by doing more listening than talking. As a safety professional, you will be writing a lot of reports, setting up PowerPoint presentations and holding meetings. If you are not very good in those areas, then do the following: Study individuals who present in a manner that holds the audience’s attention, and read books that explain how to write a proper report. Not familiar with PowerPoint do’s and dont’s? The Internet offers plenty of material that can help.

Safety Salesman

The ability to build relationships with your team is crucial. This involves your peers, the business unit, sub-contractors and field personnel. You have to sell safety every day. People around you will have pre-conceived notions about you and the safety program. This is not the time to be rigid in your approach, or to be a safety cop. Use finesse and negotiate your way into building relationships that last. You won’t always get the result that you are looking for, but be patient and consistent in your message. At times our egos get in the way of being effective safety leaders. It is imperative that you understand where you fit into the ecosystem in the workplace. As the safety professional, you are the advisor, not the safety officer. It is important that you understand the difference. (Get more tips in Workplace Safety Culture 101.)

Not entirely sure how to overcome conflict at work without becoming worked up yourself? Ask your employer for guidance in this matter. There are many courses available where you can learn and practice in a classroom setting about how to become a better communicator and negotiator.

This information was generously provided by the following service providers located in Alberta. (based in Bonnyville) (based in Calgary) (based in Calgary) and (based in Edmonton).