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What does a Safety Engineer do?

By D. Jeffress
Updated Mar 02, 2024
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A safety engineer designs new guidelines, equipment, and procedures to preserve the health and safety of industrial workers. He or she may be employed by a manufacturing plant, consulting firm, insurance company, or a government agency to monitor work activities and give expert advice on how to identify and improve dangerous conditions. A safety engineer needs to have a thorough understanding of mechanical engineering principles, health and safety laws, and business administration in order to perform the job. Most professionals are required to hold college degrees and gain licensure or certification in their specialty.

Working in a large manufacturing plant that utilizes heavy equipment can be loud, hectic, dirty, and dangerous. It is the responsibility of the safety engineer to minimize work hazards by identifying and remedying potential problems before they occur. A professional tours the facility and speaks with workers to analyze safety concerns. He or she makes notes about dangerous procedures or machines to later create a detailed report for management.

After creating a report, the safety engineer starts thinking of ways to fix problems and avoid accidents. He or she may revise equipment schematics and blueprints to correct design flaws or lead a training course to help employees learn safer practices. The engineer may decide to enact new workers' health and quality-control guidelines, and schedule regular preventive maintenance rounds to ensure machines are kept in good condition.

A safety engineer may be employed full-time by a manufacturing plant to monitor activity or visit many locations as a consultant. Insurance companies staff safety engineers to provide business owners with advice on how to improve working conditions and lower their policy rates. Some skilled safety engineers are employed by regional and federal government agencies to perform regular walk-throughs of large facilities, ensuring they are in compliance with the law.

A bachelor's degree in occupational health or engineering is required to find work as a safety engineer in most settings. Many government engineers hold master's degrees or higher in industrial hygiene, and professionals who engage in the research and design of new machinery often have specialized training in mechanical engineering. Many regions and countries require safety engineers to pass licensing examinations before they can offer consulting services. Pursuing additional certification from a respected organization, such as the American Society of Safety Engineers in the United States, can be helpful in finding work.

New safety engineers typically begin their careers as assistants to experienced workers in order to become familiar with the job. Assistants learn how to compose reports and make official recommendations when necessary. New engineers begin working unsupervised after proving their abilities and showing dedication to the job.

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