Safety Engineer

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Safety Engineer


Safe working environments were not always a standard practice. Yet today, with changing standards, a career as a safety engineer can be a challenging and rewarding field to work in. Safety engineers protect people from workplace hazards and are concerned with the interaction between people and their physical, chemical, biological and psychological environments. They anticipate and inspect all possible danger spots in an organization and design safety apparatus and equipment to prevent injury and ill health. They cooperate with safety committees in various parts of an organization, keep up-to-date on safety issues and carry on a perpetual educational campaign among workers.

The work of a safety engineer is similar to that of an industrial engineer in that they are concerned with the entire production process. They promote worksite and product safety by applying knowledge of industrial processes, as well as mechanical, chemical, and psychological principles. They must be able to anticipate and evaluate hazardous conditions as well as develop hazard control methods. They also must be familiar with the application of health and safety regulations.

They also investigate post-injury cases and use the information when constructing new safety ideas, learning from mistakes and trying to prevent such errors from happening again. Part of this analysis could include studying tasks people perform on the job, analyzing building layouts and interviewing workers who are exposed to health hazards.

They are a vital part of the building process and as a result, a significant portion of money allocated to construction goes to installing safety features such as fire detection systems. They consult with companies and advise people on how to apply safety systems in buildings. A safety engineer should be extremely knowledgeable about how buildings are constructed along with relevant safety legislation and regulations. They strive to prevent accidents before they happen by inspecting buildings and seeking out any potential disasters.

Safety engineers are required to constantly update their skills and knowledge in order to keep up with technological advancements in this quickly changing field.
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  Interests and Skills  
Safety engineers should be interested and fully dedicated to the safety of people and structures. They should have a natural curiosity about safety engineering systems and have a creative imagination when designing new practices. They must possess excellent communication skills because a majority of their job deals with people. Engineers should be able to troubleshoot potential disaster areas and have a keen eye for spotting problems within a structural environment.

  Typical Tasks  
  • Develop hazard control designs, methods, procedures and programs
  • Implement, administer and advise management on hazard controls and hazard control programs
  • Measure, audit and evaluate the effectiveness of hazard controls
  • Determine which problems pose a significant risk
  • Inspect and review building designs and architects' drawings
  • Read relevant documents and discuss issues with local authorities such as city councils
  • Meet with builders and architects
  • Design safety systems to comply with building codes and regulations
  • Educate staff members on safe practices within the workplace
  • Prepare and write reports to send to clients
  • Safety engineers work mainly in offices and on building sites to educate workers, inspect premises install safety equipment. They generally work a standard 40-hour workweek, yet will work longer hours in the case of an emergency. They may also travel to safety conferences locally and overseas.

  Workplaces, Employers and Industries  
  • Safety engineers work in a variety of industries. Any structure that needs safety protection and a safety advisor (pretty much all organizations) will require a safety engineer to install necessary equipment and educate employees. Examples of such organizations are consulting firms, financial institutions, government institutions, health care institutions, manufacturing and industrial plants, transportation companies, universities and colleges, insurance companies, department or grocery stores and many more.
  • Some safety engineers are self-employed and work as consultants on a freelance basis. This allows them the freedom to switch areas and industries and set their own hours and schedules.

  Long Term Career Potential  
Safety engineers may advance into senior management and other administrative positions within an organization for which they work. They may decide to become safety inspectors and dedicate their more of their time to safety education. Those with engineering PhDs can teach professionally at the postsecondary level. They could also move into any other related engineering disciplines and specialize in a new area such as fire prevention or a related field.

  Educational Paths  
While still in high school, if this is the career path you are interested in taking, make sure you take courses in mathematics and science. Most university programs will require these subject areas as prerequisites.

Safety engineers require a bachelor's degree in industrial safety engineering or in a general engineering field, such as manufacturing, fire prevention or chemical engineering. Then, they must also become registered as a professional engineer (PEng) within an association of professional engineers to secure employment and practice in their field. Some engineers also get master's degrees in a specific area, such as fire prevention engineering, and a PhD so that they can teach at the postsecondary level.

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition,
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Employment Statistics, 2002,

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