OSH pay survey

2017 salary survey

Our poll of 2,310 safety and health practitioners gives a snapshot of pay, conditions and morale in the profession.

Image credit: ©iStock/YinYang

The survey sample

The survey was open online to both IOSH members and non-members between 14 March and 14 April and advertised in IOSH Magazine’s twice weekly e-newsletter. The poll drew 2,310 useable responses, 95.5% of them from IOSH members.

As Figure 1 (below) shows, a substantial majority of respondents (90.5%) were based in the UK, with the remainder mainly in continental Europe, the Middle East, the Far East, Africa and the Republic of Ireland.

Respondents’ median average age was between 45 and 54 and the age distribution was similar for all industries. The fact that only 14.5% of those polled were under 35 and around one in four (24%) were over 55 reflects the demographic trend of an ageing workforce and falling birth rate as those in the generation produced by the “baby boom” of the 1950s move into the latter stage of their working lives.

Three out of four respondents (75%) were male. In the lower part of the age spectrum – practitioners aged 34 and under – the proportion of female respondents rose to one-third (111 of 336 in this age group).

Employed respondents associated themselves with organisations ranging in workforce size from ten employees or fewer up to 100,000-plus. As Figure 6 shows, almost half the sample worked for employers with more than 1,000 workers, but 30% were under the 250-employee threshold where employers are classed as small and medium-sized enterprises. 

Survey highlights

  • The average salary for all full-time practitioners is £40,000.
  • The average pay rise received by respondents in the previous 12 months was 1%, half that for the rest of the economy.
  • More than one-third of respondents received no pay rise in the previous 12 months.
  • Only one in five respondents says their pay is linked directly to performance reviews.
  • Female practitioners are paid on average 5% less than their male counterparts, half the national average differential.
  • Four out of five practitioners say they are satisfied in their jobs.


Respondents’ median time in the OSH profession was between 11 and 15 years. Two respondents, both in construction – one employed, the other self-employed – had each notched up more than 40 years in OSH management. The average time respondents had spent in their present job was between two and five years.

Fig-3-OSH-pay-survey-respondents-by-ageFig-4-OSH-pay-survey-respondents-by-genderWe asked OSH practitioners to pick from a small range of job titles, choosing the one closest to their own, ignoring other responsibilities such as environmental management, quality or security management. By far the most common title was safety and health manager, accounting for two-fifths of the sample. The breakdown by job title for all respondents was:

  • Safety and health assistant: 3% (68 respondents)
  • Safety and health officer: 27% (630)
  • Safety and health consultant: 14.5% (332)
  • Safety and health manager: 42% (978)
  • Head of safety and health: 8.5% (193)
  • Safety and health director: 5% (109)

Broken down by broad employment sector, the sample was as follows:

  • 72% private sector (1,663)
  • 23% public sector (538)
  • 5% charitable/third sector (109)

The division into industrial sectors is shown in Figure 5. Construction and manufacturing are by far the biggest sectors represented, followed by consultancy, government and the energy and water industries.


Respondents could choose as many qualifications as they held from a list. The proportions were as follows:

  • British Safety Council certificate: 2.5% (63)
  • NCRQ certificate: 1.5% (35)
  • Nebosh certificate: 66% (1,527)
  • NVQ level 3: 4.5% (105)
  • Nebosh construction certificate: 17% (384)
  • British Safety Council diploma: 0.5% (13)
  • NVQ level 5: 17% (396)
  • NCRQ diploma: 1% (28)
  • Nebosh diploma: 30% (697)
  • Bachelor’s degree: 6.5% (151)
  • Postgraduate diploma: 9% (210)
  • MSc: 8% (190)
  • PhD: 0.5% (16)

Asked what size annual budget they managed for OSH services and materials, such as personal protective equipment, the median answer of employed respondents was an amount between £5,001 and £10,000. More than one-fifth (22.5%) managed budgets of more than £100,000 a year, but another 45% (1,040) had discretion for less than £1,000 a year.

Excluding freelancers, the average OSH practitioner polled managed one other person, though 44.5% of respondents had no direct reports. Broken down by job title, the median number of reports was:

  • Safety and health assistant (66): nil
  • Safety and health officer (623): nil
  • Safety and health consultant (254): nil
  • Safety and health manager (960): 1
  • Head of safety and health (190): 3-5
  • Safety and health director (105): 6-10

We also asked how many work sites or premises respondents were responsible for. The median answer was five sites. One in five employed respondents (19.5% or 431) managed only one site each. At the other end of the spectrum, 80 practitioners (3.5%), from a mix of industries, said they each managed safety and health at more than 500 sites.

Fig-7-OSH-pay-survey-median-salary-by-job-titlePay levels

We asked respondents to state their salary to the nearest thousand pounds in the range between £15,000 and £80,000, then in £10,000 bands up to £100,000 and £25,000 bands up to £150,000.

The average salary figure we use is the median – the midpoint in the range from smallest to largest salary figure. This gives a more reliable figure than a mean average which can be distorted by a few very high or low earners.

Thirty-seven individuals (1.5% of respondents) earned more than £100,000, mostly consultants and managers in the private sector. Two male and one female safety manager in construction reported salaries over £150,000; all three reported being quite satisfied or very satisfied with their jobs.

The median average salary for all full-time employed OSH professionals (2,110 respondents) was £40,000. By comparison, the median for environmental professionals, recorded in the most recent survey by the Institute of Environmental Management and Assessment (IEMA), was £39,000 – based on a sample of 1,135 practitioners surveyed at the end of 2016 – slightly lower than our own £40,000 average.

The median for self-employed respondents was £39,000, slightly below that for full-time employed respondents, but the self-employed sample was relatively small at 102 individuals. Most of these were concentrated in the consultancy and construction sectors. Their earnings ranged from less than £15,000 (three respondents), to two earning more than £100,000, both working in construction.

Salary by job title

Figure 7 (above) shows the median salaries for common job titles in our survey across all employment sectors. It shows a rising median salary with higher job status. The differential between safety and health directors and managers is lower than might be expected, perhaps accounted for by the relatively low number of directors in our sample. The differentials remained constant for the public and private sectors when analysed separately.

Only around two in five consultants in the survey (136 out of 235 with the title) are employed by consultancies; the rest are mainly in the construction, government, and energy and water sectors. The median salary for consultants working for consultancies was £48,000, substantially higher than our £39,000 figure for all consultants.

More than 90% of our survey sample is based in the UK. For most job titles, median salaries for UK-only respondents were the same as for the whole sample, reflecting the fact that OSH practitioners from other countries who completed the survey were evenly distributed through the salary range. None of the other jurisdictions contributed enough responses to derive a median salary.

The interquartile range, which covers the 50% of salaries that fall either side of the median (so excluding the top and bottom 25% of salaries) was as follows for each job title, for full-time employees:

  • Safety and health assistant: £28,000–£41,000
  • Safety and health officer: £31,000–£49,000
  • Safety and health consultant: £30,000–£53,000
  • Safety and health manager: £32,000–£50,000
  • Head of safety and health: £33,000–£55,000
  • Safety and health director: £37,000–£57,000

This shows that the normal range of salaries for these common job titles fall in £18,000 to £23,000-wide bands.

Broken down by broad sector, the median salaries for full-timers in the most common job title in our survey – health and safety manager – was:

  • private sector (1,521): £40,000
  • public sector (506): £38,000


Salary by industry

The median salaries for all full-time practitioners by industrial sector are shown in Figure 8. Several sectors, including agriculture, the armed services, financial services, and mining and quarrying, did not have enough respondents to calculate a reliable figure.

The average salary in many sectors matched our all-sector median of £40,000. These included construction, consultancy, education and general services – which includes facilities management, legal services and media – and transport and distribution.

The gender gap

The UK’s Office for National Statistics reports on wage differentials by gender. Its latest data, released in March (bit.ly/2m3j7wr) covers 2016 and shows that women in full-time jobs earned 9.4% less on average than their male counterparts.

The results of our survey suggest that the gender pay gap in safety and health is half this average. The 528 full-time employed female OSH practitioners in our sample (25% of the total) had a median salary of £40,000, 5% lower than the £42,000 for male respondents.

The most recent survey by IEMA of environmental practitioners’ salaries found a pay gap of 16.7%, more than three times that in our survey.

The sub-sample of self-employed female respondents (20 out of 109) was too small to calculate a median salary, so it was not possible to estimate the gap for practitioners who work for themselves.

Fig-9-OSH-pay-survey-managers-salary-by-age-groupSalary by age group

Our overall median salary of £40,000 was consistent for full-time employees in most of the age groups listed in Figure 3, though the samples were too small for those under 25 and 65 and over to produce a median figure for either group. Broken down by the most common job title in our survey – safety and health manager – the median salaries for full-time employed practitioners aged 35 to 44 and 55 to 64 were the same as the all ages median. But those aged 25 to 34 dropped to £38,000 (see Figure 9).

Salary by highest qualification

Respondents were asked to note all the OSH qualifications they had obtained. An analysis of those in full-time employment by the highest qualification they hold is shown in Figure 10.

The sub-samples with the newer National Compliance and Risk Qualifications (NCRQ) certificate and diploma, British Safety Council qualifications and OSH doctor’s degrees as their highest qualifications were too small to calculate reliable median figures.

The fact that the median salary for those with bachelors’ degrees is similar to those for diploma holders in our sample may support the argument that such credentials have degree equivalence to employers.

The age profile for those with degrees is lower than for the whole sample – 15% of OSH graduates are aged 55 or over, compared with 24% of all respondents. It may be that graduates have still to reach peak earnings, but the profile for years in the profession is similar between degree holders and those with diplomas.


Salary by IOSH membership level

Almost all the respondents to our poll – 96% – were IOSH members. Figure 11 seems to show clear advantages of moving through the membership echelons, with distinct steps in the median salary for even affiliate members above non-members. The incremental increases widen with the membership grades; fellows earn £12,000 more at the median than chartered members – though the sample of fellows is too small to place a heavy weight on.

“This really stands out in the survey, indicating that pay levels are determined more by IOSH membership grade than most other variables,” says Steve Jackson, health, safety and sustainability director at the EEF manufacturers’ organisation.

Asked about their membership of other professional organisations, participants listed a wide range, from the Chartered Management Institute (CMI – 8 respondents) to the Royal Society of Chemistry (12).

Those most commonly cited were:

  • International Institute of Risk and Safety Management (IIRSM): 375
  • Institute of Environmental Management and Assessment (IEMA): 355
  • Safety Groups UK: 120
  • Fire Protection Association (FPA): 93
  • Association for Project Safety (APS): 60
  • Institute of Risk Management (IRM): 49
  • Institute of Directors (IoD): 20


Fig-12-OSH-pay-survey-pay-awards-in-past-12-monthsPay rises

The median pay rise for full- and part-time directly-employed respondents at their last pay review date within the 12 months before the survey was 1%. This was the same for private, public and charitable sector OSH practitioners.

Pay and benefits specialist XpertHR reported in January that its median pay review for all professions for the previous 12 months, based on awards for more than 240,000 workers, was 1.9% – almost twice the median for our sample.

As Figure 12 shows, the median 1% rise conceals a massive variation in pay awards. One-third of employees had their pay frozen (and 3% had their pay cut), while 10% of the sample saw their pay rise by at least 6%. This group included five OSH directors, 18 heads of department, 65 managers, 33 officers and five assistants.

The policy in the UK which has restricted pay reviews for many public servants, such as those in the National Health Service and the armed services, to a 1% maximum was reflected in our sample but did not seem to have any distorting effect on the public sector median rise.

Performance measurement

We asked OSH practitioners if their work performance was assessed against any or all of four common organisational metrics. The results for full- and part-time employees were:

  • OSH audit results: 45% (996)
  • Accident rates: 41% (909)
  • Near-misses: 26% (574)
  • Absence rates: 16.5% (361)

More than two-fifths of respondents (998) added another performance measure to the list, but two-thirds of these simply cited general appraisals or performance reviews. Among the specific measures noted were balanced scorecards, financial management and training delivered.

Eleven consultants cited client satisfaction or retention as a measure. One health and safety manager in the utilities sector noted wryly his performance was judged on “what appears to be the flavour of the month”. Seventy-seven respondents (3%) reported that their performance was not measured by their employers.

Pay for performance

We asked whether respondents’ pay increases were linked to performance assessment. The results for all employed respondents, were:

  • Yes: 20% (442)
  • No:  80% (1,755)

This suggests that for most OSH practitioners, the inflation rate or their employer’s balance sheet is the main driver of their annual pay movement (or lack of it).


Our analysis of extra-salary benefits provision for full- and part-time employees in the survey (2,197 respondents) was as follows:

  • Almost a quarter of our sample (23% or 505 participants) were enrolled in final-salary pension schemes operated by their employers. These arrangements provide a guaranteed benefit at retirement linked to the length of the individual’s service. Those with final salary plans were not disproportionately concentrated in private, public or third sector organisations. The schemes are now less commonly offered to new employees in the private sector due to their unpredictable costs for businesses.
  • Almost two in five (38% or 830 respondents) were provided with money-purchase pensions, in which the employer and/or the employee make a defined contribution into an investment fund with no guaranteed level of final pension. 
  • 31.5% (695) had the use of company cars. The proportion of OSH managers, heads of safety and health, and directors with company cars was consistent at around one-third, but the proportion of OSH officers with vehicles was 30% and only 21% of assistants had cars provided.
  • 12.5% (291) in private sector organisations have access to employee share schemes. National data suggests these will most commonly be share-save arrangements which allow employees to make regular payments to save for a grant of discounted shares in their companies. But the 15 OSH directors who said they were covered by schemes may receive direct grants of shares.
  • Two in five employed respondents (39% or 853) were eligible for bonuses on top of their salaries. This proportion was constant across the private, public and third sectors.

Job satisfaction

As Figure 13 shows, our survey suggests OSH professionals are generally a contented lot; almost four out of five report moderate or high job satisfaction. The UK Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development’s latest Employee Outlook poll, published in May, shows a job satisfaction rate of +48 (those satisfied minus those dissatisfied) for all occupations (bit.ly/2mcv9mZ). By the same measure our OSH sample would score +5. The satisfaction levels varied only minimally from the percentages in the chart when analysed by salary level, last pay rise, age, gender or employment status.

The satisfied three-quarters majority even held up among those who had put up with pay cuts in the previous 12 months.


There were comparable levels of satisfaction among private sector and public sector respondents, but satisfaction among those working for charities and not-for-profit businesses was slightly higher than the all-sector average, with 85% saying they were quite or very satisfied.

“You are forever hearing about how a majority of employees are dissatisfied with their jobs,” notes Steve Jackson at the EEF. “Here we see four out of five practitioners with positive job satisfaction. We are passionate about what we do and see the clear benefits of good OSH management.”




  • It would be interesting and

    Permalink Submitted by Dave B on 25 May 2017 - 11:52 am

    It would be interesting and useful to have had a section showing regional variations.

  • Good work very interesting.

    Permalink Submitted by Aengus Benson on 30 May 2017 - 10:22 am

    Good work very interesting. In Dublin there is a shortage of safety professionals in construction and managers are advertised at €60k to €70k, officers at €45k. If you have pharma experience in Dublin the salaries are much higher.

    • any roles in Dublin need to

      Permalink Submitted by Larry Shannon on 31 May 2017 - 11:08 am

      any roles in Dublin need to reflect the cost of accommodation. Great rates if you have a base/home to work from ( particularly in D15!). No so great if you have 4 hour commutes.

  • a question on contractor

    Permalink Submitted by Larry Shannon on 31 May 2017 - 11:06 am

    a question on contractor rates/ v experience/ v qualification might be include din next survey.

  • It's a shame that IOSH's own

    Permalink Submitted by IOSH Employee on 6 June 2017 - 11:24 am

    It's a shame that IOSH's own employees' salaries are far lower than the survey findings. Voice of the profession seems to ground the voice of their own professional staff. I think it's time for new IOSH management to start utilising their own data and stop relying on Hays system when evaluating the job roles.

  • Very comprehensive report,

    Permalink Submitted by Sandie Hornby on 17 July 2018 - 02:13 pm

    Very comprehensive report, and makes for interesting reading. Happy to say I'm in the "Very Satisfied" category!


Add new comment