HSE Advisor or HSE Manager - what's the difference?

by Laura Aucott

I currently sit as a steering committee member for the Next generation HSE group (you can find them over on Facebook), a group for up and coming professionals looking for advice, and established professionals who can offer help support and mentoring.

A question was posed by the group this morning- what's is the difference between an advisor and a manager?

This is also one of the main questions often asked to us by clients and candidates, how do we differentiate between an advisor level safety professional and a manager level professional? Is it just a qualification difference, or is there a real difference in ability and function – and what level do you need for your site?

Qualifications are a good place to start, as we traditionally see advisors sitting at certificate level, and managers at diploma or equivalent, however this is not always the case. Particularly within the manufacturing and construction industries, we see more and more often candidates that have worked their way up through the tools, and therefore are extremely experienced and knowledgeable – they just haven’t had the time or the inclination to look at further qualifications.


So if qualifications aren’t how we judge – what can we look at to ensure the right level for the right company?


More and more at HSE Recruitment, we are seeing that the main difference between advisor and manager seems to come down to self-sufficiency and commercial know how.

An advisor traditionally is someone very site focused, who is able to offer help, support and advice at an operational level. This will involve being very hands on with site staff, and being very focused on the basics of health and safety.

A manager, (often in addition to the site based/operational stuff dependent on the company and team) however does tend to have another string to their bow. This is the ability to not only manage health and safety as a function, but also to manage themselves. This means, they are incredibly self-sufficient, and are able to work autonomously and without the need to be spoon fed information or ideas from senior management. They will also traditionally look at higher arching safety issues such as systems or strategic policies (again dependent on site size).

Not only will a manager be able to work independently however, but they will be able to see how Health and Safety interacts with other functions across the company – and are able to see from a commercial perspective how health and safety can be not only an ethical but a commercial business concern.

A good place to start is to take a look over our below checklist. Although this is not an exhaustive list, these are some useful questions you can ask a candidate during an interview for a manager level role, or questions you as a candidate can ask yourself – to ensure that you are aiming at the right level.

  • Can you give an example of a time when you have worked closely with senior management? How did you explain health and safety needs to them? Can you discuss what the commercial benefit to the company was?
  • How do you change your approach when speaking to site level staff versus senior management?
  • Can you give an example of a time when you have been challenged by the board (or similar) about the cost effectiveness of a safety initiative? How did you overcome this?
  • Have you implemented safety systems? If so, which and what was your approach? Did you take these through the accreditation process?

For any further help, support or advice (either in your current job search, or with any recruitment needs within your company) please get in touch by contacting or for further information on the Next Generation HSE group please contact

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