Become a Safety Officer with the right training

Accidents can happen in any business, whatever the size. Whether it is a one-person or large-scale business. Safety issues need to be discussed in every company and risks must be addressed proactively. But does every company need a Safety Officer? What kind of role does he or she have? And where can one get the necessary training? This article provides the answers based on a fictitious case study.

Three years ago, Pascal and two friends from university established a start-up company. More employees continued to join the company. After having worked from home in the first few months and then in a public co-working space, the moment arrived with five employees when it made sense to rent office space.

After a short while, they found premises: an old warehouse that they could use for a limited time. Pascal is the head of the start-up and is luckily very safety conscious as the old warehouse has a few quirks like staircases without handrails, uneven surfaces that are not clearly signed, no recesses for the numerous cables that are needed for the computers, printers and other equipment. So Pascal goes online to research possible safety measures for the new offices as well as to find out how he should tackle and organise the safety issues facing the company.

Pascal does everything right – organising things is, after all, a job for the boss. Creating a safety system for the office is also a management task.1 Identifying hazards, for example, is part of the job. However, certain tasks can be delegated so that employees can provide support. Depending on the size of the company, it can make sense to have one employee trained as a Safety Officer or occupational safety representative. With fewer than 10 people in total, Pascal’s start-up is still relatively small so it is left to him personally to take on the responsibility for occupational safety. But Pascal has big plans for his start-up. What would happen if he suddenly grew the company to 50 employees? He would then need to provide proof that a safety system in place in his organisation.2

The question of responsibility

The one thing that cannot be delegated is responsibility. The Safety Officer supports and advises the employer on occupational safety and health protection issues. He or she carries the responsibility for the factual accuracy of his or her recommendations. The final responsibility for occupational safety and health protection, however, remains with management and the line managers.

Duties and responsibilities of a Safety Officer in the company’s security organisation

Find out more about the duties of a Safety Officer in the company security organisation in the article: I am a Safety Officer… So, what now? – First steps as a Safety Officer.

Selecting a Safety Officer

Ideally, the employee who takes on the role of Safety Officer is interested in occupational safety and health protection, and has a broad capacity for empathy. The kind of person needed is persuasive, willing to acquire the necessary specialised knowledge and is dedicated to raising and communicating issues relating to occupational safety and health protection with both management as well as staff.

Opportunities for training

And where can employees acquire the knowledge necessary to be a Safety Officer or occupational safety representative? Which training courses are available? And which courses, workshops and learning programmes make it possible to ensure that the knowledge acquired stays up to date? Pascal finds the answers in the Internet.

If the Safety Officer lacks the necessary know-how and basic knowledge, various possibilities are open to acquiring this knowledge. The ideal answer to a security system for many small and medium-sized companies is the service-sector solution. This offers affiliated companies a security system. A handbook containing all the relevant points, access to ASA specialists as well as various services are included. Typically training for occupational safety representatives is also part of the offering. Individual industry associations will know if this kind of solution exists for the respective industry, The FCOS publishes all the sector solutions (in German) it has certified.

Another solution is possible whereby the company takes on the security or quality assurance system developed by a consultant and has it adapted to its structure and conditions. Occupational safety and health protection are a feature of this system. Many companies that provide these solutions also offer their member companies training. An overview of such solutions (in German). that have been certified by the FCOS can be found on the FCOS website.

Suva offers numerous programmes and courses (in German) for the field of occupational safety and health protection. Safety Officers can take a targeted approach to developing their knowledge in line with their functional level and familiarise themselves with methods and useful tools that apply directly to their activities.

A further provider of courses is the Schweizerische Verein für Arbeitssicherheit und Gesundheitsschutz (in german) that also runs courses on the customer’s premises.

Become a specialist

With time, many Security Officers find they would like to train as specialists. Suva offers courses and training (in German) for aspiring occupational safety and health prevention specialists according to government-regulated standards. An additional option has recently become available: a vocational exam to become an occupational safety and health protection specialist (in German). This is a Federal exam that was developed by the association for advanced vocational education (Verein höhere Berufsbildung ASGS) and is recognised by the State Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovation. On its website, the ASGS provides a list of organizations (in German) that provide courses and training towards this exam.

Investigate office hazards using the SafetyCheck app

An easy-to-use approach to tracking down hazards such as unmarked glass doors, exposed cable channels or potential tripping hazards that requires no expert knowledge is the SafetyCheck app from the FCOS Checkbox. The app makes it possible to record hazards and plan measures to deal with them. SafetyCheck cannot replace a systematic investigation of potential hazards according to FCOS ASA guidelines (6508). It is an aid that can be implemented by non-specialists to promote safety and health in the office.

Assigning tasks and responsibilities

As soon as responsibility for occupational safety at work is in the hands of several people, duplication and misunderstandings can result. In order to prevent this from happening, it is important to assign individual tasks and responsibilities. Three questions need to be answered: Which tasks need to be completed? Who needs to be involved in dealing with the individual tasks? What are the responsibilities of each individual? Ideally, the answers to these questions are determined jointly by line managers and employees.

Bringing a culture of safety into being

The question of occupational safety at work is also one that should be approached jointly. For a culture of safety to be truly effective, safety needs to be an on-going issue. It needs to be integrated into internal communications and become a continuing process. Safety belongs in the company’s mission statement. If you are a company CEO, give your employees insight into safety goals as well as the budget that is assigned to health and safety. This helps to sensitise employees to the topic. Include the rights and duties related to occupational safety and health protection in employee contracts and job descriptions. Talk about safety at annual reviews and job interviews. Make use of internal channels of communication such as the intranet, noticeboards and meetings to inform people about changes. And when giving instructions for work, include the safety aspects involved.

Testing and consolidating knowledge

The very accessible and entertaining FCOS Learning Modules allow you to test and consolidate your knowledge of occupational safety and health protection.

And what does that mean for me as the boss?

Pascal is glad that he looked into occupational safety requirements early on. He decides he will keep a careful eye on safety while his company grows and react quickly whenever necessary. While carrying out his research he also happened on the FCOS Learning modules. The online tool helps him to double check and consolidate his knowledge of occupational safety. And the first point on the agenda for the next meeting with his small team: we are moving into a new office. What are the safety implications? How can each of us contribute? And who will support me in future as the Safety Officer?

According to article 82 of the Law on Accident Insurance, article 3 of the ordinance on accident prevention and article 6 of the Labour Act.

2 According to FCOS guideline 6508 on consultation with occupational physicians and other occupational safety specialists (ASA guideline), clause 3.1 and 3.3

Are you already using the FCOS online tools?


In the seven chapters of the FCOS Box and a series of short video clips, you will find out how to improve health and safety at the office and what needs to be taken into consideration.

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FCOS Checkbox

With the FCOS Checkbox apps you can identify safety risks in the office or check to see if your workstation is set up ergonomically.

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FCOS Learning Modules

Easily accessible and entertaining, they will help you check and consolidate your knowledge of the basics in safety and health protection at work.

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