This article was originally posted by Wayne J. Harris on the ISQEM blog
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. (For related reading, see Get to Know Your Friendly Neighbourhood Safety Professional.)
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 organization. Generally, they produce business risk management solutions and can contribute to large scale organizational safety cultural changes and improvements.
Generalist Safety Consultants
The generalist safety consultant will often focus on one or two areas of expertise. For instance, he or she might specialize in construction or in manufacturing. They generally 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 incident 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. (For more, see 3 Ways to Become a Safety Leader.)
Do You Still Want to Be Independent?
First of all, consulting is often long hours and the job requires a safety consultant to deliver work to a deadline under various parameters. 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.
Download as PDF: So you want to be a Safety Consultant