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Becoming a Safety Professional
Is The Field Right For You?
When I am not being a husband or father, playing video games, or writing about video games, I am a safety professional. What that means is I train individuals, write policies, investigate accidents, lead safety meetings, and act as a liaison between operations and the employee. It is a rewarding and challenging job that is also a growing part of every industry. The focus of this article will be helping you understand basically what a safety professional does, and helping you figure out if you want to make this into a career, and how to start getting into the field.
A Day in the Life
For starters I work in a very safety conscious environment. I work in the research facility management department for the largest petrochemical plant in the western hemisphere. But that being said, when I first come in, I have a few minutes to review some material from the previous days operations, then go to a kick off meeting for the beginning of the shift. I will speak on the daily safety emphasis, ask if there are any concerns that need to be addressed. After the meeting I go and update some files in my office. These are mostly things that help operations, but proper documentation helps me keep track of trends that could be causing potential safety hazards.
After this I either go to meetings to discuss issues or changes in the workloads and discuss what changes in personal protective equipment (PPE) are needed, or what can be engineered to keep everyone safe. If there are no meetings, I go perform audits of area's where people are working, to make sure they are working safely, and following the procedures that have been developed through the years that have been proven to reduce accidents.
Towards the end of the day, our teams second shift starts, I attend their kick off meeting as well, and give the daily safety emphasis to them as well. After second shift starts, I go perform more audits, I compile the information, handle and deficiencies and looks for ways to improve our safety culture without adversely affecting production.
Sometimes there are accidents. When these happen it is my job to make sure the proper people are notified, I arrive on scene, make sure the employees are taken care of, then I investigate what happened, why it happened, and what could have been done to prevent it from happening, or keep the damages to a minimum.
I also document reports on these issues so we can learn from them and prevent them from happening again. When these issues do occur I am the one that brings management in line with what is right if needed. Sometimes its the companies fault, and operations will try to pin the blame on the employee. I get to be the one who tells them, "No, it's your fault, and you can either take care of the person, or they can make you take care of them. One is a lot easier than the other."
How I Chose This Field
Well, I have some personal traits that led me to this field. A list of personal traits that are needed are:
- Critical Thinking
- People Skills
- Speaking Skills
Of all those, courage and integrity are probably the most important. Sometimes you have to be able to make the choice to do what is easy, and what is right. You have to be able to walk up to your boss and tell him he is wrong, and not be afraid to stand up in front of a group of people and tell them they are wrong, that you think that this new course of action is the way to go, not only because it will save them money, but because it is the right thing to do.
I always tend to look at the root causes of things, and that curiosity and analytical thinking first made me want to sell insurance. I like a lot of the aspects of risk management involved with insurance, but cold call selling is not for me. Then I went to the medical world, wanted to be an RN, but logistics and personal reasons made me rethink that career. So the next step was keeping people from going to the hospital.
How To Get Started.
If you are saying to yourself, "Yeah sounds good, I want to know how to get started." Well here we go.
First thing your going to need is some operations knowledge. It can be anything, there are safety people at hospitals, colleges, construction sites, Wal-Mart, Best-Buy, you name it, safety is there. So go get some working knowledge of some kind of field. Management experience is a huge plus too.
Next you need some education, a degree is nice, but safety specific education and certificates are a huge plus. There is a specific certificate that most manufacturing companies want called a CSST that is "Construction Site Safety Technician." It is based off of a curriculum made by the NCCER, The National Center for Construction Education and Research, and a lot of ABC (Associated Builders & Contractors) centers teach them, as well as local colleges with safety degree plans. I got mine with two college classes within a single semester.
After you get those, your going to have to network. Networking is one of the greatest skills you can learn in developing any career. You need to know people who will tell you what is going on. You can't be everywhere and know what every company is looking for, but you can have friends who can tell you what is going on in their world. Your first safety job will probably be because someone knows you and recommends you. Make yourself someone they will recommend because you have a good attitude, and work hard.
Why Do Soulless Corporations Care?
Just something to think about. It is more than laws that keep companies in line. Once it was decided that companies are responsible for their employees while they are on the job, keeping them safe has been a big deal. But lets look at some numbers. First thing you have to understand is the cost of injuries comes out of profit. With that established lets look at the cost of an eye injury, one where permanent eye injury occurs without loss of sight.
The direct cost is $10,000. This covers doctors, time off work, management time on the accident, emergency response, things that have a direct bill sent to you.
The indirect cost in generally 3x the direct cost (it can easily reach 20x), so $30,000. This is overtime paid for lost production, increase in workers comp insurance, training employees to prevent accident recurrence, repairing damaged property, the accident investigation, the list goes on.
That brings the total cost of the accident to $40,000. That's a lot of money right? Lets go further.
Every company has a profit margin, it depends on industry, but a good rule of thumb is 5%. This is after the money is made from selling goods and services, everyone is paid, the bills are paid, and there is money left over that belongs to company. That's the 5% we are talking about.
If you divide that $40,000 by .05, you get $800,000.
That is how much product the company has to sell before it makes back the $40,000 in profit it lost because of the accident.
It cost a company $5 to buy a pair of safety glasses.
That's why soulless corporations care about safety. It's also the right thing to do, I am sure some people look at that too. But it saves more money than people initially realize.