Health and Safety Engineer Career Info

Health and safety engineers specialize in design and construction of environments to improve health and reduce risk. They may operate as consultants within a design team or to rectify issues in a place of business or industrial site. Health and safety engineers are experts in their fields. Their work often involves detailed study of premises, identifying health issues like "sick building syndrome" water contamination, lighting, poor ventilation or other major problems which can seriously affect health.

The work environment

The safety related part of their work relates to hazards, which many include electrical issues, work areas containing dangerous equipment, chemicals present in the atmosphere, fumes from materials or industrial processes, or other situations.

This can be extremely complex work, requiring thorough testing of working environments, residential buildings, and commercial premises to identify the problems. In many cases, particularly older buildings, there may be multiple health and safety problems. Solutions require design of new features which cover all aspects of the health and safety issues. In order to achieve acceptable standards of health and safety many engineers may complete renovation and redesign of entire premises. It's common for old industrial buildings to require total renovation to comply with modern health and safety requirements. 

As designers at the planning level, health and safety engineers incorporate the health and safety features into their designs. In many cases this work involves strict levels of compliance with laws related to hazardous materials and chemicals, fire safety, design and installation of sprinkler systems and other fundamental safety devices.

This is extremely important, basic industrial safety at its most fundamental level. The work of health and safety engineers makes the workplace a very much safer place for everyone. Industrial related illnesses and injuries cost the US billions of dollars and many seriously injured or sick people every year.

Wages and Hours

The median wages for engineers in this line of work is somewhere between $45,000 to $100,000. The higher income streams will depend on experience and qualifications. Consultants earn more based on contract rates.

Consultancy roles are the hallmark of senior health and safety engineers. They may be employed as advisers across all industries, depending on their areas of expertise. They may also be called upon to conduct health and safety reviews of large corporations and government agencies. This form of work is a management role, involving thorough surveys of environments and assessing potentially large ranges of health and safety issues across the organizations. The hours will vary according to workload and demands of contracts.

The career outlook

The normal career track for experienced health and safety engineers is well suited to high levels of job mobility, which allows for rapid career progression for talented engineers. Health and safety engineers commonly specialize in particular industries, and often play an important role in the development of health and safety standards and guidelines at regulatory level. This is a particularly important career role, and has important applications in new technology, biochemical and industrial fields. Senior health and safety engineers are also experts in the area of statutory requirements for these fields, and provide reports making recommendations in regulatory white papers.