What Is Safety Engineering?

Safety engineering is a process of analysis and design to assure that a vital piece of equipment will work even if parts of it fail. Ideally, Safety engineering is built into the original design process. Safety engineers also analyze the safety of a finished design, but changes needed then are likely to be expensive and slow. Schools offering Engineering & Technology Management degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

The Field of Safety Engineering

As a safety engineer, you'll work to ensure a product, system or resource is able to be used without endangering the user. A number of roles exist within the field that you have the option to pursue:

Important Facts About Safety Engineering

Job Outlook (2016-2026) 9% growth
Professional Certification Voluntary; Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) and Professional Engineering (PE)
Key Skills Problem solving, critical thinking, creativity, observation, reading comprehension
Similar Occupations Construction and building inspectors; fire inspectors; occupational health and safety specialists; occupational health and safety technicians

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

System Safety

'System safety' is a proven method of safety engineering used in a variety of fields, notably by the federal government and military. As a systems safety engineer, you'd be involved on technical and managerial levels from the beginning of a design. By running hazard analyses on the systems that make up that device (including the software that may monitor or control it) you would aim to reduce the risk of failure as much as possible, often by installing sensor and indicators to monitor progress.

Product Safety

As a product safety engineer, you would research accidents caused by the use, or misuse, of products. You would then develop and present plans to reduce risk or eliminate safety concerns altogether, both in the design of new products and those already in existence.

Reliability Centered Maintenance

Another area of safety engineering involves correctly maintaining the equipment to prevent likely failures. This is called 'Reliability Centered Maintenance' and is particularly familiar to engineers involved with aircraft. Parts or systems that are likely to fail are maintained or inspected at optimal intervals.

Fire Prevention and Protection

Safety engineers working in fire prevention develop fire prevention systems for buildings, often working closely with architects and construction crews during new building projects or renovations. As an engineer in this role, you would need to be licensed and up to speed on all fire safety regulations.

Salary and Job Prospects of Health and Safety Engineers

According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the job outlook for health and safety engineers is good, with employment growth expanding by an average amount when compared to other careers across the nation. Salaries are excellent. As of May 2018, health and safety engineers earned a median annual income of $89,130, while the top 10% brought in more than $142,970 per year, according to the BLS (www.bls.gov).

Safety Engineering Education

Most safety engineers start with a bachelor's degree in engineering. A Safety Engineering certificate may be available with multiple engineering majors. Some professionals seek higher education, such as a Master of Science in Engineering, to help them advance in their careers. Coursework concentrates heavily in mathematics, physics and other physical sciences. You can learn more about Safety Engineering with the American Society of Safety Engineers or the Board of Certified Safety Professionals.

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