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What Health and Safety Engineers Do About this section

Health and safety engineers
Health and safety in the workplace is a major concern of health and safety engineers.

Health and safety engineers develop procedures and design systems to protect people from illness and injury and property from damage. They combine knowledge of engineering and of health and safety to make sure that chemicals, machinery, software, furniture, and other products will not cause harm to people or damage to property.

Duties

Health and safety engineers typically do the following:

  • Maintain and apply knowledge of current health and safety policies, regulations, and industrial processes
  • Review plans and specifications for new machinery and equipment to make sure that they meet safety requirements
  • Identify and correct potential hazards by inspecting facilities, machinery, and safety equipment
  • Evaluate the effectiveness of various industrial control mechanisms
  • Ensure that buildings or products comply 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

Health and safety engineers also investigate industrial accidents and injuries to determine their causes and to determine whether the incidents were avoidable or can be prevented in the future. They interview employers and employees to learn about work environments and incidents that lead to accidents or injuries. They also evaluate the corrections that were made to remedy violations found during health inspections.

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

Fire prevention and protection engineers conduct analyses and make recommendations regarding the potential fire hazards of buildings, materials, and transportation systems. They also design, install, and maintain fire prevention and suppression systems and inspect systems to ensure that they meet government safety regulations. Fire prevention and protection engineers must be licensed and must keep up with changes in fire codes and regulations.

Product safety engineers, sometimes called product compliance engineers, develop and conduct tests to make sure that various products are safe and comply with industry or government safety regulations. These engineers work on a wide range of products, from nuclear submarine reactors and robotics to cell phones and computer systems.

Systems safety engineers identify and analyze risks and hazards associated with system designs in order to make them safe while ensuring that the systems remain operational and effective. They work in many fields, including aerospace, and are moving into new fields, such as software safety, medical safety, and environmental safety.

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

Work Environment About this section

Health and safety engineers
Health and safety engineers may need to spend time at worksites.

Health and safety engineers held about 23,600 jobs in 2021. The largest employers of health and safety engineers were as follows:

Manufacturing 25%
Government 14
Construction 12
Engineering services 10
Management, scientific, and technical consulting services 5

Health and safety engineers typically work in offices. However, they also must spend time at worksites when necessary, which sometimes requires travel.

Work Schedules

Most health and safety engineers work full time.

How to Become a Health and Safety Engineer About this section

Health and safety engineers
Health and safety engineers inspect facilities, machinery, and safety equipment to identify and correct potential hazards.

Health and safety engineers typically need a bachelor’s degree in an engineering discipline or in environmental health and safety. Some employers prefer to hire candidates who have practical experience, so cooperative-education programs may be valuable as well.

Education

Entry-level jobs for health and safety engineers typically require a bachelor’s degree in an engineering discipline, such as chemical, mechanical, industrial, or systems engineering, or in environmental health and safety. Bachelor’s degree programs typically include classroom, laboratory, and field studies in applied engineering. Engineering students interested in becoming health and safety engineers also should take courses in occupational safety and health, industrial hygiene, ergonomics, or environmental safety. Employers may prefer to hire graduates of engineering programs accredited by a professional association such as ABET.

Some colleges and universities offer cooperative-education programs that allow students to gain practical experience while completing their education. Students also may choose to participate in an internship.

A few colleges and universities offer 5-year accelerated programs through which students graduate with both a bachelor’s and a master’s degree. A master’s degree allows engineers to enter the occupation at a higher level, from which they can develop and implement safety systems.

Important Qualities

Communication skills. Health and safety engineers must be able to interpret federal and state regulations and their intent so that they can propose proper designs for specific work environments. Health and safety engineers also prepare and present training materials to workers and must be able to describe new regulations and procedures to a variety of audiences.

Creativity. Health and safety engineers produce designs showing potential problems and remedies for them. They must be creative, in order to deal with situations that are unique to a project.

Critical-thinking skills. Health and safety engineers must be able to identify hazards to humans and property in the workplace or in the home before those hazards cause material damage or become a health threat.

Observational skills. Health and safety engineers must observe and learn how operations function so that they can identify risks to people and property. This requires the ability to think in terms of overall processes within an organization. Health and safety engineers can then recommend systemic changes to minimize risks.

Problem-solving skills. In designing solutions for entire organizational operations, health and safety engineers must take into account processes from more than one system at the same time. In addition, they must try to anticipate a range of human reactions to the changes they recommend.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

Licensure is not required for entry-level positions as a health and safety engineer. A Professional Engineering (PE) license, which allows for higher levels of leadership and independence, can be acquired later in one’s career. Licensed engineers are called professional engineers (PEs). A PE can oversee the work of other engineers, sign off on projects, and provide services directly to the public. State licensure generally requires

  • A degree from an ABET-accredited engineering program
  • A passing score on the Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) exam
  • Relevant work experience, typically at least 4 years
  • A passing score on the Professional Engineering (PE) exam

The initial FE exam can be taken after one earns a bachelor’s degree. Engineers who pass this exam are commonly called engineers in training (EITs) or engineer interns (EIs). After meeting work experience requirements, EITs and EIs can take the second exam, called the Principles and Practice of Engineering (PE).

Each state issues its own licenses. Most states recognize licensure from other states, as long as the licensing state’s requirements meet or exceed their own licensure requirements. Several states require continuing education for engineers to keep their licenses.

Health and safety engineers can earn professional certifications, including the following:

Pay About this section

Health and Safety Engineers

Median annual wages, May 2021

Engineers

$99,040

Health and safety engineers, except mining safety engineers and inspectors

$99,040

Total, all occupations

$45,760

 

The median annual wage for health and safety engineers was $99,040 in May 2021. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $58,490, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $150,720.

In May 2021, the median annual wages for health and safety engineers in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

Engineering services $100,290
Manufacturing 97,700
Management, scientific, and technical consulting services 86,710
Construction 81,230
Government 80,840

Most health and safety engineers work full time.

Job Outlook About this section

Health and Safety Engineers

Percent change in employment, projected 2021-31

Engineers

5%

Total, all occupations

5%

Health and safety engineers, except mining safety engineers and inspectors

4%

 

Employment of health and safety engineers is projected to grow 4 percent from 2021 to 2031, about as fast as the average for all occupations.

About 1,500 openings for health and safety engineers are projected each year, on average, over the decade. Many of those openings are expected to result from the need to replace workers who transfer to different occupations or exit the labor force, such as to retire.

Employment

Health and safety engineers will be needed to help protect people from potential hazards. As new regulations are created, organizations are expected to rely on these engineers for help in complying with requirements that safeguard people from illness and injury and property from damage.

Employment projections data for health and safety engineers, 2021-31
Occupational Title SOC Code Employment, 2021 Projected Employment, 2031 Change, 2021-31 Employment by Industry
Percent Numeric

SOURCE: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employment Projections program

Health and safety engineers, except mining safety engineers and inspectors

17-2111 23,600 24,400 4 800 Get data

Contacts for More Information About this section

For information about general engineering education and career resources, visit

American Society of Safety Professionals

Technology Student Association

For more information about accredited engineering programs, visit

ABET

For more information about the Professional Engineer license, visit

National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying

National Society of Professional Engineers

For information about protecting worker health, visit

American Industrial Hygiene Association

For information about certification, visit

American Board of Industrial Hygiene

American Society of Safety Professionals

Board of Certified Safety Professionals

International Council on Systems Engineering

O*NET

Fire-Prevention and Protection Engineers

Health and Safety Engineers, Except Mining Safety Engineers and Inspectors

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