Did you know that safety professionals are some of the most important employees in big organizations? Large corporations, especially in engineering, construction, and mining hire safety practitioners to reduce the risk of an accident in the work environment.
Are you an aspiring safety professional but don’t have the faintest idea on where to begin? The idea of conducting your own research on how to start a career path for safety may be farfetched, especially if you don’t know how to get started.
This article seeks to explore the job descriptions of various safety professionals and give you a step by step process on how to hit the ground running on your path to the career of your dreams.
Why Do Organizations Need Safety Professionals?
One of the major reasons companies need safety professionals is to prevent reputational damage that may ensue if workplace accidents became the order of the day in the organization — and of course to avoid the financial implications of accidents that result in employee injury or fatality in the course of their job. If a workplace accident is found to be as a result of negligence, the consequences could be dire.
What Is The Work Environment Of A Safety Professional Like?
The daily activities of a safety officer in an organization will vary from industry to industry, but you can be sure that there will be a lot of travelling. For instance:
A safety professional in mining company will spend most of his/her time in the mines as opposed to the office. This is because most of the accidents are more likely to occur in the mines.
In a business environment, a safety professional will spend most of his/her time in the office. Some of the time will be spent on the road driving from one location to another and some on the factory floor. These professionals are more likely to be working regular office hours.
In a hospital setting, a safety officer will spend most of his/her time in the hospital building. Instead of regular office hours, these professionals will be required to work in shifts.
The primary focus of a safety officer in any work environment is to prevent accidents and incidents that may result in injury, illness, equipment or property damage, harm to the environment, et cetera. Many organizations will combine environmental, health, and safety matters into one department for management purposes.
Careers in the Safety Profession
There are innumerable career opportunities in the field of safety, both on a full-time and part-time basis. Most of the jobs are on full-time, though. Just like with any other professions, there are different positions with each one of them coming with a different set of responsibilities.
Typically, each advancing level will require an individual to have a higher level of knowledge and skills, education, experience and so on.
Making Your Way into a Safety Profession
There are various ways an interested individual can make his/her way into a career as a safety professional. Some of the different routes of entry to becoming a safety officer include:
Safety through Experience
Experience can move someone to pursue a career in the field of safety. This may happen if a person was involved or was part of a major incident that left a significant number of people ill or injured.
From Craft to Professional
In some cases, one may develop a budding career in safety via a leadership role in their work group or craft. Involvement as a team leader or supervisor may lead to the development of interest due to the feeling of responsibility for the safety of their colleagues.
Safety through Assignment
If your employer or union assign you a safety responsibility, you are bound to become involved in safety at various levels. The assignment may be in the form of a full-time safety person or as a part-time responsibility or collateral duty such as the appointment to the safety committee. The assignment will progress in responsibility. You may start as an HR manager with workplace safety as part of your job, but the responsibility will grow as you put in the efforts to improve the organization in compliance and safety performance.
Obtaining a bachelor’s or master’s degree in safety is a common entry route to the field. Interested individuals may start with an associate degree in environment, health, safety or any other related field.
Steps on How to Become a Safety Professional
Regardless of how you enter into the field of safety, there are some steps you need to take to increase your chances of having a successful career. These are:
Bachelor’s Degree. The first step is to earn yourself a bachelor’s degree if that wasn’t your entry route. Many employers require candidates to have at least a bachelor’s degree in environmental health and safety or a related field.
In many cases, safety positions job applicants will be required to have at least a year of experience in a professional safety position. You can boost your experience level by completing an internship program in a reputable organization.
If you want to have a fruitful career as a safety professional, you should consider getting certified in your specific field. In the US, safety certification is awarded by the Board of Certified Professionals (BCSP).
Master’s Degree. Data from the bureau of labour and statistics shows that years of work experience accompanied with graduate studies provide the best chance for scooping a lucrative position in the field of safety.
Safety professionals can secure employment in any type of organization or industry. However, you are more likely to find a safety specialist in a large organization or a company that specializes in high-risk activities namely engineering, construction, and mining. In smaller companies, the role of a safety professional is often assumed by people in other managerial positions like HR, for instance.