Occupational Safety and Health: An Investment for a Rich Future

Kenya Mortgage Refinance Company Medium Term Note received a 578.6 per cent subscription rate equivalent to Ksh 8.1 billion against Ksh 1.4 billion target.

The Parkroad Estate housing project in Ngara, Nairobi

There is more to safety than just prevention. It is a fact that safety is the most uncomfortable venture for most occupiers. Most employers look at safety as having Nil Returns on Investment. 

However, when safety is looked at from both its three pillars which are the legal, moral and business obligation, it becomes a profitable venture. 

It is better to prevent rather than relent and treat symptoms. Most employers have come to the comprehension of the weight of the aforementioned statement and are now increasingly embracing occupational safety, health, and environment. They have realized that a safe work environment increases productivity. 

Therefore, as businesses and companies increasingly give safety a nod, guess who are the beneficiaries? According to a study conducted by the Oregon Institute of Occupational Health Sciences, graduates in Science with a background in matters occupational safety and health are increasingly flooding this field. The field presents many opportunities in fire risk assessment, hazard risk assessment, occupational illnesses among many other underpinnings that constitute safety discipline.

However, starting a career in safety can be challenging and requires patience. For instance, in Kenya one requires a minimum certificate in OSH and 5 years of field experience in OSH to be a certified safety and Health advisor as per Section 10 of OSHA, 2007. 

The certification comes with many privileges. To me, this is should be a motivation for young scholars to try and venture in Occupational Safety and Health Sciences. 

Currently, the internal Health Safety and Environment (HSE) has become a requirement for winning lucrative tenders globally. Some companies will come to do HSE internal management systems before awarding a tender to your company. With this, many companies are taking no chances and are now hiring someone with background knowledge and skills in OSH sciences to oversee safety issues for the company. This should motivate scholars about sustainable opportunities in this field. Hence, I would advise one to pursue a career in occupational safety and health sciences.

Working as a safety manager or officer is a challenging endeavor, yet the satisfaction of looking after the health, safety and the lives of your team members wear off the challenges. In most cases, rarely are you recognized by the management, often blamed in case of an incident, you are looked down upon as compared to the engineers and other operational teams. But you should learn to rise above all these negative forces and embrace safety as a humanitarian endeavor and the bulky future benefits in the field if you ever intend to have a successful future career in occupational health and safety.

When deciding which company to work for as safety personnel, pay attention to whether the company indulges in safety to improve their own internal systems and engineer a productive safe work environment or to avoid compliance penalties. If the later prevails, then you must evaluate the possibilities of job insecurity and low pay. Also, look at what the company is willing to pay its HSE professionals vs their operations people as a good indication of their commitment to safety. 

By Dennis Odhiambo, Health and Safety Officer, Burhani Engineers Ltd

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