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Occupation description

Safety is a key priority for rail organisations. Work health and safety (WHS) officers are responsible for ensuring that safety policies and practices are adopted and followed. They help develop, implement and review policies and procedures that minimise operational losses, WHS problems, accidents and injuries and conduct safety and audit inspections. Typically, these include incidents and injuries, emergencies (e.g. fires, evacuations, and bomb threats), hazards, and track, chemical, electrical awareness, environmental awareness, personal protective equipment (PPE), and safety signs.  

They also train employees in safe working procedures, record and investigate injuries, report on safety performance and coordinate the return to work of injured workers.

Knowledge, skills and attributes

To succeed in this career, you need to be proactive, a quick thinker and able to quickly digest large amounts of safety-related information including compliance with legislation and statutory obligations. You need to be persuasive in your negotiations and interactions with employees, union representatives and management. You must have a strong regard for safety.

Working conditions

In some organisations and depending on your specific role, you may have to work shifts. Depending on the size of your organisation, you may travel to other locations including regional depots and train stations.  If you work for a freight company, you may find yourself in remote mining areas. Physical fitness is important especially for working in large-scale plants or on outdoor sites.

Entrance requirements and ongoing training and development

This is not an entry level role and WHS officers would generally have at least two years of rail experience and some knowledge of the Workplace Health and Safety Act 2011. Some WHS officers will come from a trade, train driving, or infrastructure background. Whilst there are no specific requirements, there are a number of qualifications ranging from diploma or advanced diploma in occupational health and safety.

Many safety professionals are members of professional associations, including the Safety Institute of Australia and the New Zealand Institute of Safety Management. Such associations provide information for their members including training and development opportunities.

Training Australia and The Skills Organisation (NZ) develop qualifications and provide details of training packages, qualifications and registered training organisations for people working in work health and safety.

The value of a career in the rail industry

For even more details on what you might earn, the diversity of companies you could work for and the career opportunities available, visit the following careers and training websites. Careers in Rail by the Australasian Railway Association; About the Rail Industry by Rail Skills Australasia and Rail Training by the Transport and Logistics Industry Skills Council (TLISC).

For more information

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Career Path Flowchart

Typical career path for a workplace health and safety officer