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Health and Safety Engineers

Health and safety engineers develop procedures and design systems to keep people from getting sick or injured and to keep property from being damaged. They combine a knowledge of health or safety and of systems engineering to make sure that chemicals, machinery, software, furniture, and other products are not going to cause harm to people or buildings. Show Details

Duties

Health and safety engineers typically do the following:

  • Review plans and specifications for new machinery or equipment to make sure it meets safety requirements
  • Inspect facilities, machinery, and safety equipment to identify and correct potential hazards
  • Evaluate the effectiveness of various industrial control mechanisms
  • Ensure that a building or product complies 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
  • Maintain and apply their knowledge of current policies, regulations, and industrial processes

Health and safety engineers also investigate industrial accidents, injuries, or occupational diseases to determine their causes and to see whether they could have been or can be prevented. They interview employers and employees to learn about work environments and incidents leading up to accidents or injuries. They also evaluate the corrections that were made to remedy violations found during health inspections.

Health and safety engineers are also active in two related fields: industrial hygiene and occupational hygiene.†

In industrial hygiene, they focus on the effects of chemical, physical, and biological agents. They recognize, evaluate, and control these agents to keep people from getting sick or injured. For example, they might anticipate that a particular manufacturing process will give off a potentially harmful chemical and recommend either a change to the process or a way to contain and control the chemical. †

In occupational hygiene, health and safety engineers investigate the environment in which people work and use science and engineering to recommend changes to keep workers from being exposed to sickness or injuries. They help employers and employees understand the risks and improve working conditions and working practices. For example, they might observe that the noise level in a factory is likely to cause short-term and long-term harm to workers and recommend ways to reduce the noise level through changes to the building or by having workers wear strong headphones.

Health and safety engineering is a broad field covering many activities. The following are specific types of health and safety engineers:

Aerospace safety engineers work on missiles, radars, and satellites to make sure that they function safely as designed.

Fire prevention and protection engineers design fire prevention systems for all kinds of buildings. They often work for architects during the design phase of new buildings or renovations. They must be licensed, and they must keep up with changes in fire codes and regulations.

Product safety engineers investigate the causes of accidents or injuries that might have resulted from the use or misuse of a product. They propose solutions to reduce or eliminate any safety issues associated with products. They also participate in the design phase of new products to prevent injuries, illnesses, or property damage that could occur with the use of the product.

Systems safety engineers work in many fields, including aerospace, and are moving into new fields, such as software safety, medical safety, and environmental safety. These engineers take a systemic approach to identify hazards in these new fields so that accidents and injuries can be avoided.

For information on health and safety engineers who work in mines, see the profile on mining and geological engineers.

Occupational Health and Safety Technicians

Occupational health and safety technicians collect data on the safety and health conditions of the workplace. Technici Show Details

ans work with occupational health and safety specialists in conducting tests and measuring hazards to help prevent harm to workers, property, the environment, and the general public. For more information, see the profile on occupational health and safety specialists.

Duties††

Occupational health and safety technicians typically do the following:

  • Inspect, test, and evaluate workplace environments, equipment, and practices to ensure they follow safety standards and government regulations
  • Collect samples of potentially toxic materials for analysis by occupational health and safety specialists
  • Work with occupational health and safety specialists to control and fix hazardous and potentially hazardous conditions or equipment
  • Carry out and evaluate programs on workplace safety and health
  • Demonstrate the correct use of safety equipment
  • Investigate accidents to identify why they happened and how they might be prevented in the future

Technicians conduct tests and collect samples and measurements as part of workplace inspections. For example, they may collect and handle samples of dust, mold, gases, vapors, or other potentially hazardous materials. They conduct both routine inspections and special inspections that a specialist orders. For more information about specialists, see the profile on occupational health and safety specialists.

Technicians may examine and test machinery and equipment such as scaffolding and lifting devices to be sure that they meet appropriate safety regulations. They may check that workers are using protective gear, such as masks and hardhats, as regulations say they must.

Technicians also check that hazardous materials are stored correctly. They test and identify work areas for potential health and safety hazards.

In addition to making workers safer, technicians work with specialists to increase worker productivity by reducing the number of worker absences and equipment downtime. They save companies money by lowering insurance premiums and worker compensation payments and by preventing government fines.

Techniciansí duties vary based on where they are employed. For example, a technician may test the levels of biohazard at a waste processing plant or may inspect the lighting and ventilation in an office setting. Both of these inspections are focused on maintaining the health of the workers and the environment.

The responsibilities of occupational health and safety technicians vary by industry, workplace, and types of hazards affecting employees. The following are examples of types of occupational health and safety technicians:

Environmental protection technicians evaluate and coordinate the storage and handling of hazardous waste, the cleanup of contaminated soil or water, evaluation of air pollution, or other activities that affect the environment.

Health physics technicians work in places that use radiation and radioactive material. Their goal is to protect people and the environment from hazardous radiation exposure.

Industrial hygiene technicians examine the workplace for health hazards, such as exposure to lead, asbestos, pesticides, or contagious diseases.

Mine examiners inspect mines for proper air flow and health hazards such as the buildup of methane or other harmful gases.

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