The Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH) is the largest membership organisation of its kind.
And because of its size and standing in the industry, every up-and-coming health and safety professional should decide if they want to join IOSH at some point.
There are definite benefits to IOSH membership. It’s also safe to say many occupational health and safety professionals found success partly due to their affiliation with IOSH.
Suppose you’re starting a career in health and safety or considering IOSH membership to advance your position in the industry. In that case, our guide might help you make your decision.
It outlines the benefits of IOSH membership, the different grades and a little background on IOSH itself.
What is IOSH?
IOSH isn’t only the largest membership organisation for health and safety professionals. It’s also one of the most respected.
Formed in 1945, IOSH works to achieve its vision of a “safe and healthy world of work” for all workers across every sector.
IOSH was recognised for its hard work in 2002, when it was awarded a Royal Charter, making it an officially chartered body. This accolade granted IOSH independent legal standing, cementing its position as an industry leader. But to most people, a Royal Charter is more of a mark of professional excellence.
IOSH works to realise its vision of complete occupational safety in several ways but is primarily known for its training. It’s hoped that by educating as many professionals as possible, IOSH will be able to raise safety standards in as many workplaces as possible and across as many industries as possible.
This philosophy of targeting a broad audience has led to them developing several generic courses – such as IOSH Working Safely – suitable for almost any industry. However, IOSH still offers more in-depth, sector-specific training programmes or courses for senior employees up to the executive level.
IOSH also approves courses created by third parties as long as the provider and training content meets its high standards.
In addition to education, IOSH collaborates with various regulators, professional bodies, industry representatives and decision-makers to influence and improve health and safety policy and legislation. This is partly achieved through their regular reports and industry guidance, the latest of which (WORK 2022) outlined their five-year plan to improve working lives across the globe.
Membership is another strategy used by IOSH to raise occupational safety standards. By joining IOSH, safety and health professionals should, in theory, at least, be able to develop their knowledge faster and further by taking advantage of members-only tools and resources.
Membership isn’t free, however. You must also be prepared to meet the criteria for membership and commit to continuing professional development if you want to move up the ranks.
Still, numerous health and safety professionals are prepared to meet the standards for membership because there are clear benefits.
Benefits of IOSH Membership
There are two key benefits to IOSH membership: progression and credibility.
Progression comes partly from access to the aforementioned members-only tools, resources and events. As an IOSH member, you can attend exclusive networking events, conferences and exhibitions. You’ll also be kept updated on industry news and developments.
Once you’ve been a member for at least three years, you can even use the IOSH Benevolent Fund to pay for education in certain situations. The fund can also offer financial support to members who cannot work due to illness or disability.
IOSH also offers its members advice, support and guidance, steering them towards courses and qualifications to boost their careers.
Credibility comes from IOSH’s standing in the industry. It’s recognised worldwide for its professional health and safety excellence, and joining grants you similar authority within your field. Membership will likely open new career opportunities and add weight to your professional opinions. You can also add designatory letters to your name at certain membership levels.
Types of IOSH Membership
All health and safety professionals join IOSH as associate members. After joining, you can quickly be transferred to higher membership levels (or grades, as referred to by IOSH) depending on your experience and qualifications.
However, if you’re early in your career, you’ll need to work through specific requirements to move up the ranks.
It should be noted that IOSH is planning a shake-up of membership grades in late 2023, with some titles and criteria changing. We’ve presented membership grades as they are now but will note where amendments are planned.
Suppose you’re studying for an IOSH-accredited qualification or are a Safety, Health and Environment (SHE) apprentice. In that case, you can join as a student member.
Student members get early access to specific IOSH career resources to give you a head start in the field once you’ve graduated. Sometimes, you can also receive mentoring from senior IOSH members and even access bursary funds.
This membership level is open to anyone interested in occupational health and safety and requires no previous experience or qualification.
This grade will transition to Affiliate Member in late 2023. It will be kept as the entry-level membership grade at which everyone starts.
Technical Member (TechIOSH)
Anyone with a Level 3 IOSH qualification and professional experience can advance to a Technical Membership. At this level, you can add TechIOSH to your title.
Since this level recognises a certain level of competence in your field, IOSH expects Technical Members to complete continuing professional development (CPD). You’ll need to join the IOSH official CPD programme and keep records of your efforts to improve.
Graduate Member (GradIOSH)
This grade is for those who have completed a recognised degree-level IOSH qualification. Achieving this level of education prepares you to become a Chartered Member academically. Still, until you’ve proven sufficient CPD, you’ll remain a Graduate Member.
If you do become a Graduate Member, you’ll be authorised to use the letters GradIOSH after your name.
This grade will transition to Certified Member when IOSH change their membership structure.
Chartered Member (CM IOSH)
If you’re good enough, you can become a Chartered Member. This membership grade proves you reached the highest occupational health and safety standards.
Unsurprisingly, you’ll need to work hard to reach this grade. First, you must have joined as a Graduate Member and enrolled in IOSH’s Initial Professional Development (IPD) scheme. Through the IPD programme, IOSH will test your eligibility to become a Chartered Member. This assessment period can take anywhere between two to five years.
You’ll also be subject to heavy scrutiny. Your IPD submissions will all be peer-reviewed, and you’ll need a comprehensive record of CPD to reach this level.
This effort allows you to use the designatory letters CMIOSH, which carry significant weight in the health and safety industry.
Chartered Fellow (CF IOSH)
The very highest membership grade is reserved for the most distinguished Chartered Members.
Aside from a minimum of five years as a Chartered Member, there are no concrete requirements for this membership level.
According to IOSH’s membership guidelines, to reach this level, you must prove an “outstanding contribution to the discipline and profession of health and safety.” You must also be able to show you’re maintaining your already exceptional levels of knowledge through a “mandatory programme” of CPD.
If you can prove all this, you’ll be bestowed the designatory letters CFIOSH.
Best start training now.
Where to Start Your IOSH Training
IOSH membership comes with quite a few benefits, but it’s about more than personal gain. Becoming an IOSH member can motivate health and safety professionals to reach the highest levels of expertise. This standing gives them the authority to influence health and safety policy for entire organisations or even governments, helping IOSH achieve its vision of making work safe for as many people as possible.
IOSH adopt a similar philosophy through their training. IOSH courses are designed to be accessible to almost any worker and relevant for most sectors because they are all about safety. You can learn how to make your workplace or operations as safe as possible for yourself and your colleagues through training.
Many start with IOSH Working Safely, but it’s designed for workers, not managers. If you’re in a senior position and responsible for supervising work, you’ll need IOSH Managing Safely.
As an IOSH course, you can trust the quality and accuracy of the training materials. It also gives you an industry-recognised certificate demonstrating your health and safety skills. You’ll learn to assess and control risks to make your workplace safer and legally compliant. You’ll also study incident investigation and performance measurement, letting you learn from accidents and implement control measures to ensure they don’t happen again.
IOSH Managing Safely might not make you a Chartered Member, but it will make you a better manager.