Health and safety engineers combine knowledge of engineering and of health and safety to develop procedures and design systems to protect people from illness and injury and property from damage.
What they do
Health and safety engineers combine knowledge of engineering and of health and safety to make sure that chemicals, machinery, software, furniture, and other products will not cause harm to people or damage to property.
They typically do the following:
- Maintain and apply knowledge of current health and safety policies, regulations, and industrial processes
- Review plans and specifications for new machinery and equipment to make sure that they meet safety requirements
- Identify and correct potential hazards by inspecting facilities, machinery, and safety equipment
- Evaluate the effectiveness of various industrial control mechanisms
- Ensure that buildings or products comply with health and safety regulations, especially after an inspection that required changes
- Install safety devices on machinery or direct the installation of these devices
- Review employee safety programs and recommend improvements
Health and safety engineers also investigate industrial accidents and injuries to determine their causes and to determine whether the incidents were avoidable or can be prevented in the future. They interview employers and employees to learn about work environments and incidents that lead to accidents or injuries. They also evaluate the corrections that were made to remedy violations found during health inspections.
Health and safety engineering is a broad field covering many activities. The following are examples of types of health and safety engineers:
Fire prevention and protection engineers conduct analyses and make recommendations regarding the potential fire hazards of buildings, materials, and transportation systems. They also design, install, and maintain fire prevention and suppression systems and inspect systems to ensure that they meet government safety regulations. Fire prevention and protection engineers must be licensed and must keep up with changes in fire codes and regulations.
Product safety engineers, sometimes called product compliance engineers, develop and conduct tests to make sure that various products are safe and comply with industry or government safety regulations. These engineers work on a wide range of products, from nuclear submarine reactors and robotics to cell phones and computer systems.
Systems safety engineers identify and analyze risks and hazards associated with system designs in order to make them safe while ensuring that the systems remain operational and effective. They work in many fields, including aerospace, and are moving into new fields, such as software safety, medical safety, and environmental safety.
Health and safety engineers typically work in offices. However, they also must spend time at worksites when necessary, which sometimes requires travel.
How to become a Health and Safety Engineer
Health and safety engineers must have a bachelor’s degree, typically in environmental health and safety or in an engineering discipline. Employers value practical experience, so cooperative-education engineering programs at universities are valuable as well.
Entry-level jobs for health and safety engineers require a bachelor’s degree, typically in environmental health and safety or in an engineering discipline, such as electrical, chemical, mechanical, industrial, or systems engineering. Bachelor’s degree programs typically include classroom, laboratory, and field studies in applied engineering. Engineering students interested in becoming health and safety engineers also should take courses in occupational safety and health, industrial hygiene, ergonomics, or environmental safety. ABET accredits programs in engineering.
Many colleges and universities offer cooperative-education programs, which allow students to gain practical experience while completing their education.
A few colleges and universities offer 5-year accelerated programs through which students graduate with both a bachelor’s and a master’s degree. A master’s degree allows engineers to enter the occupation at a higher level, from which they can develop and implement safety systems.
The median annual wage for health and safety engineers was $91,410 in May 2019. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $53,650, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $143,880.
Employment of health and safety engineers is projected to grow 4 percent from 2019 to 2029, about as fast as the average for all occupations.
Health and safety engineers are employed mainly in manufacturing, engineering and consulting firms, construction, and state and local government. As buildings, products, and processes continue to become more complex and new regulations are created, these engineers will be needed to reduce costs, save lives, and produce safe consumer products.
Similar Job Titles
Environmental Health and Safety Director (EHS Director); Health and Safety Professional; Health and Safety Specialist; Industrial Hygienist; Industrial Safety Engineer; Safety and Health Consultant; Safety Engineer; Safety Manager; Safety Team Leader; Safety, Health, and Environment Vice President
Agricultural Engineer, Chemical Engineer, Energy Engineer, Food Scientist and Technologist, Occupational Health and Safety Specialist
The trade associations listed below represent organizations made up of people (members) who work and promote advancement in the field. Members are very interested in telling others about their work and about careers in those areas. As well, trade associations provide opportunities for organizational networking and learning more about the field’s trends and directions.
- Air and Waste Management Association
- American Academy of Environmental Engineers and Scientists
- American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists
- American Industrial Hygiene Association
- American Institute of Chemical Engineers
- American Public Health Association
- American Society of Safety Engineers
- ASTM International
- Board of Certification in Professional Ergonomics
- Board of Certified Safety Professionals
- American Society of Safety Professionals
Magazines and Publications
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Even with workplace regulations to protect workers, many jobs carry an element of risk. Industrial Safety and Health Engineers are responsible for using engineering tools and technology to make places that are dangerous to work at… as safe as possible. These engineers promote worksite and product safety to avoid hazards from a variety of sources— chemical, physical, biological, and even psychological. They are always on the lookout for new ways to predict and prevent hazardous conditions and, when they do occur, control them with safety measures. Industrial safety and health engineers work with other public health and safety workers to coordinate efforts, often teaming up to investigate industrial accidents and injuries, find their cause, and prevent future problems. While they spend time in the office to plan new and improved safety programs, these engineers also travel to worksites to evaluate machinery and environments and to train workers in safety and emergency procedures. Many of these positions require a four-year college degree in engineering, along with work- related experience. For these engineers, maintaining safer, healthier workplaces keeps American industry… industrious.
Content retrieved from: US Bureau of Labor Statistics-OOH www.bls.gov/ooh,
CareerOne Stop www.careeronestop.org, O*Net Online www.onetonline.org