Safety engineers are occupational health experts who design and implement new procedures, processes and equipment to improve safety in industrial workplaces. An engineer might specialize in the research and development of new machinery or focus on identifying and remedying ongoing safety hazards. Safety engineer jobs are available in many industries and organizations. Many professionals are employed directly by manufacturing plants, construction firms, and mining companies. Others find safety engineer jobs as outside consultants or inspectors at insurance companies or government agencies.
Many large manufacturing plants and factories staff full-time engineers to ensure quality, efficiency, and safety in production. Experts who hold safety engineer jobs at factories observe working conditions, talk to laborers, and identify potential problems. They make sure workers are provided with appropriate protective clothing and accessories, such as helmets, gloves, and goggles. In addition, safety engineers ensure that heavy equipment is operated properly and that foods and chemicals are handled in accordance with laws and company standards.
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Some safety engineer jobs entail the development of better equipment and manufacturing techniques. Engineers sometimes work in teams to identify the problems with existing systems and experiment with new designs. Professionals utilize computer-aided drafting software and simulators to test the efficacy of new equipment. If a design looks promising, engineers build and rigorously test a physical prototype.
Government organizations, such as the Occupational Safety and Health Administration in the United States, hire safety engineers to conduct walk-throughs of manufacturing and processing plants. Knowledgeable officials perform inspections to ensure a facility is in compliance with federal safety laws. If a violation is discovered, such as a faulty fire alarm, the safety engineer can impose a fine and explain how the problem can be fixed.
Insurance companies also employ safety engineers to inspect facilities. Engineers act as consultants to factory owners, pointing out potential hazards and offering advice on how to improve worker comfort and safety. Professionals use established statistical models and scales to analyze the overall safety of a factory. Statistics are used to determine the appropriate insurance rates and policies to offer.
A bachelor's degree in an engineering specialty is the minimum educational requirement to enter most safety engineer jobs. Some employers, especially insurance companies and government offices, prefer to hire engineers who hold degrees in occupational health or safety management. Depending on regional or national requirements, a new safety engineer may be required to pass a licensing examination before he or she can begin working independently. With a license and several years of experience, an engineer may be able to advance to a higher managerial or executive position within a company.