No-one (apart perhaps from Guardian readers) likes it when local authorities advertise jobs which sound like, and sometimes are, wholly fatuous and politically correct non-jobs of the “one-armed vegan lap dancers outreach worker” variety.

Elmbridge BC has taken some stick in the press recently for this (we are advertising for a Health, Safety and Wellbeing Adviser), and in my opinion this criticism is unjustified. The job title is imposed on us by New Labour legislation, but the post is actually an important one and the successful candidate will have a proper job to do. Here is the Council’s official response:

Health, Safety and Wellbeing Adviser

It is regrettable that a reporter, posing as an applicant, has selectively reported a conversation with an administrative support worker and wholly misrepresented the Health, Safety and Wellbeing vacancy as a “non-job”. Despite being asked to contact the manager responsible and being advised that the person he was speaking to did not know the details of the job, the reporter persisted with his enquiries and, in an effort to be as helpful as possible, the member of staff speculated as to what the job involved. In good faith the member of staff went to some lengths to try to secure the caller’s contact details so that the manager could call him back. Having got his quote he declined the offer.

In common with most local authorities, including all Surrey districts, in Elmbridge the Health, Safety and Wellbeing Adviser is a long established role, dating back over 30 years. The Council has several statutory Health and Safety responsibilities that must be fulfilled. The Adviser provides specialist advice and training for staff on everything from manual handling and workplace assessments to fire and bomb training, asbestos awareness, emergency planning and business continuity.

In addition the post holder carries out inspections arising from legislative requirements, for example, covering fairground and steam fair health and safety to protect the public.

The role covers health and safety not just in Council offices, but in our day centres for the elderly where safety provisions are paramount, parks and open spaces, transport and across the full range of Council services.

The main role of this post is to act as an internal consultant supporting managers in managing their legislative health and safety responsibilities. These include compliance with requirements of relevant legislation identification of hazards and risks and ensuring that staff and members of the public are protected from harm. This can cover anything from water safety in parks to food or premises safety.

Examples of the training provided include:

  1. Fire and Bomb Training (wardens and all staff)
  2. Manual Handling of loads
  3. Moving and Handling (for example, for those assisting frail and elderly people)
  4. Health and Safety for Managers
  5. Display Screen Equipment
  6. Personal Safety Training

In addition to these training sessions the Health, Safety and Wellbeing Adviser will assist with arrangements for the violence awareness programme, which assists staff conducting unaccompanied site visits or those dealing with challenging or aggrieved clients, the health and safety training program for senior managers, working at heights, asbestos awareness training. The Adviser personally delivers the health and safety content on all staff induction courses.

The recent inclusion of “wellbeing” in the job title was to take account of our focus on managing staff sickness levels. Although Elmbridge has relatively low levels of sickness (around 6.6 days per employee per year), there is a determination to drive these lower.

The post holder would therefore be expected to support managers through the management of stress, eye testing for VDU users, health checks for employees and liaising with Occupational Health regarding other pro-active methods of promoting health with employees.

On the sensitive issue of pay, this post is advertised at a lower level of pay than the previous post holder.

Now obviously as a member of the Cabinet and a newly appointed one at that I will be accused of supporting the administration come what may, but it does seem to me that despite the somewhat PC name, this is a real job and not a sinecure for the otherwise unemployable. 


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