A career in occupational health and safety can be a rich and rewarding journey. After all, you spend your days saving lives and striving to improve the working conditions of your colleagues. However, as our recent Backstage Pass interview touched on, occupational health and safety can be an isolating and occasionally thankless field to work in – particularly when you are required to make tough decisions as part of your role. Don’t worry though – help is at hand, in the form of a professional network, helping to ease the burden on you as an individual practitioner. With that in mind, this short guide aims to teach you everything you need to know about professional networks, and how they can benefit both you and your organisation.
What is professional networking?
Put simply, a professional network is any forum that puts you in regular contact with relevant industry professionals, who are then able to share their experiences (or gossip!) with you and hopefully offer advice and support when it is needed. Whether online, through professional networking sites, in person, or as part of RoSPA’s health and safety membership, a professional network will put you in touch with the people and organisations you need to keep you at the top of your game. And who knows – it might just help to keep you sane along the way!
Social media for business
Social media has moved on considerably from games of ‘Bejewled’ on Facebook, with websites such as LinkedIn and Twitter providing invaluable resources for health and safety professionals. LinkedIn alone has over 200 million members in 200 countries and is said to be growing at a rate of two new members per second! The great thing about sites like LinkedIn and Twitter is they allow you to quickly meet and interact with professionals in a similar field, who previously may have been out of reach due to geographical limitations or other practicalities. Not only is this a good opportunity to contact individuals who may be able to directly benefit your business – it’s also a chance to forge links with larger health and safety organisations such as the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) or RoSPA.
What’s more, social media channels are increasingly becoming the first choice for breaking news. For example, our Twitter feed is the place we choose to post the latest press releases, news, comments, course information and links to any external content, such as our ever popular NEBOSH guides and other related workplace safety articles. By keeping an eye on these channels you can be sure that you’ve got your finger on the pulse and that you aren’t missing out on any vital new developments – particularly considering the rapid pace of change in occupational health and safety.
Training and professional development
Apart from the obvious benefits of undertaking professional health and safety training such as implementing new skills and knowledge, training courses are also a great opportunity to meet new people and grow your professional network. While in-house training is a great option for many, open training courses are often a chance to cross paths with professionals from other parts of the industry you have not previously worked with.
Once you have made these initial contacts, you can then go forward and add them to your virtual network, connecting with them via Twitter and LinkedIn to ensure you stay in touch long after the course has finished, consolidating your professional relationship – and possibly even making a friend or two along the way!
Becoming a member of a professional association or organisation such as RoSPA is a fantastic way to strengthen your ties to other professionals. Not only do you get the public and professional recognition that comes with being part of a large established organisation, you also get access to the accumulated knowledge of industry experts – in RoSPA’s case nearly 100 years of health and safety experience!
In many ways, joining a membership organisation is one of the quickest and easiest ways to start gaining the benefits of a professional network. For example, if you have a safety related query or you need to double-check a piece of legislation, the RoSPA Infocentre helpline is a service available free of charge to RoSPA Members. The Infocentre team draw on extensive archives, searchable online databases and RoSPA’s expert consultants to answer almost any safety question – offering you peace of mind that you can access the information you need, when you need it!
In addition to this, members are also able to share their latest news via the Member Zone of the website, swapping tips and offering advice and support to each other. With a subscription of OSH Journal also included, there really is no danger of missing out.
You are not alone
Finally, a large professional network allows you to feel connected to the wider health and safety community, ensuring you do not become isolated. Events such as seminars and safety award schemes are another great opportunity to meet new contacts, and as we mentioned in our recent Batman article, a strong network of friends and associates can help you achieve your goals. By drawing on the knowledge and experience of others you are able to keep up to date with best practice. This in turn will allow you to offer a much richer service to your colleagues and organisation – ultimately making for a more fulfilling professional experience all round.
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