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The Future Safety Professional: Evolving Roles and New Challenges?

A career in health and safety can be varied, challenging, and rewarding. But what does the future look like for those working in the industry?

We asked Fadela and Alex, both young professionals with an exciting career ahead of them, to share their thoughts on how they think their roles and careers may evolve in the coming years.


A more people focused approach?

The health and safety industry has been much maligned in the past, often viewed as the fun police, clipboard warriors or the team always looking to make work that much more difficult.

But is this perception starting to fade?

Whilst compliance is still an important part of our role, we are now seeing a greater emphasis on people skills, communication, engagement, leadership. There is a drive to better understand how work, works to ensure the management systems we create are better aligned and operator focused.

This is absolutely the direction we should be taking but it means we have to develop the skills and knowledge to make us better, more rounded safety professionals. It’s not just about collecting certificates, there is an expectation that we extend our learning to behaviours, human error, investigation techniques, risk management and much more.

Changes in Legislation

Post-Brexit life dished out a bit of panic when there were suggestions a lot of health and safety legislation in the UK (derived from EU legislation) was going to be removed. Whilst this wasn’t quite the case, minor amendments have been made and bigger changes may be on the horizon.

With an ever-changing working environment, changes may not be a bad thing. Is legislation created and established in the 90’s still relevant to modern day work?

It’s vital for health and safety professionals to stay up to date with legislation, it always has been. But would the industry cope with a deviation from what we have been used to for such a long period of time? Has it delivered the results we needed?

We have a future of change ahead of us from advances in technology to ever increasing environmental demands. The world of safety is more than just meeting the needs of the 1974 act, and now more than ever we need to adapt. Commonly we’re being asked to apply legislation to complex work situations which means we must be creative and innovative.


Evolving Roles: H&S vs SHE, SHEQ , SSHEQ

The role of health and safety professionals has been evolving for some time. It’s common for you to see SHE, QHSE, SHEQ, SSHEQ and so on. But will this become the norm?

With stricter environmental rules and eagle-eyed monitoring as climate change awareness skyrockets, will environmental drivers overshadow the health and safety remit?

The government's eyeing future net-zero carbon emissions, meaning tougher rules on emissions, waste, energy, and resources for all. We may be able to look forward to green rewards like tax perks and green grants, but the potential for penalties will always be a concern.

Environmental impact and sustainability is high on the agenda of the public, consumers and shareholders. If this becomes more of a focus over the coming years will we start to see a rise in cancel culture as businesses are pushed to demonstrate how they are saving the planet.

What does this mean in the future for safety professionals? There is an increasing demand for safety professionals to delve into the environmental world, with a surge of roles requiring environmental experience and job titles shifting from H&S to SHE (Safety, Health and Environment).

Two entirely different sets of knowledge, skills and legislation can be a difficult challenge to balance, both operationally and on a day-to-day basis. The added responsibilities could certainly deter talent from otherwise exciting opportunities or add pressure for professionals to adapt. There is of course no denying the potential opportunity and development the future for us young professionals.

The question is do we accept the challenge and embrace the opportunity or push back on business leaders?  

Technology Advancements  

Technology advancements mean fewer risks, right?

This common oversight can lead to a false sense of security. Whilst technology advancements such as automation, AI and co-bots offer significant improvements in efficiency, they also introduce new risks that must be carefully managed. For young professionals, understanding and navigating these risks is essential for a successful career in an increasingly technology-driven world.


Collaborative robots, or co-bots, are designed to work alongside us, improving efficiency and productivity. Co-bots have come a long way since their first introduction and are widely used in various industries such as manufacturing, logistics, and even health and social care. Equipped with advanced sensors and safety features allowing them to operate in close proximity, they are marketed as a safer alternative to traditional robotics and machinery.

However safer doesn’t mean safe, risk assessments can often be overlooked and oversimplified, due to this common misconception safety professionals might struggle to gain traction for emphasising these risks.


The future of our profession is packed with opportunities for future development. There are opportunities to embrace technology, be innovative, curious and creative to boost safety practices, care for employees, and prevent incidents.

But we can’t forget the importance of compliance and the potential for prosecution, fines and tarnished reputation. Whilst this may seem old school for some, it’s still an important part of our role and something we can't neglect.

Navigating the twists and turns of ever-changing safety rules, different approaches and demands can be a challenge. The future is exciting as the perception of our profession changes, but we need to ensure we’re prepared for the changes and challenges ahead.

Some points that we'll be considering as we develop in our careers:

  • Look outside the traditional route for training and qualifications, what other skills and knowledge will we need to be a success?

  • What can you do to prepare for a change in role or added responsibilities?

  • How can you prepare yourself to progress into management and leadership roles?

  • Embrace technology and explore ways in which it can support you in your role.

  • Build a community, it’s vital you have a group of peers around you to support when needed.

  • Get a mentor, someone that can help push you out of your comfort zone and guide you through future changes and challenges.

  • Don’t just rely on the law, look at how you can develop core skills such as empathy, engagement, curiosity etc.


About the Authors

Fadela Kerflani is a Health and Safety Consultant at Orchard Safety Ltd. Fadela started her career in facilities management where she was actively involved in health and safety. Transitioning across into a full-time health and safety role provided experience in a number of industries including social housing, construction, manufacturing, leisure and care.

Alex Smythe is a Health and Safety Consultant at Orchard Safety Ltd.

Alex started her career in visual merchandising, and become actively involved in fire, health and safety for a multinational retailer. This opened the door for Alex to transition across into a full-time fire, health and safety role, providing experience in a number of industries including manufacturing, retail, hospitality, warehousing and logistics.  


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