Safety engineer

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Scope of a Safety Engineer[edit]

The scope of a safety engineer is to perform their professional functions. Safety engineering professionals must have education, training and experience in a common body of knowledge. They need to have a fundamental knowledge of physics, chemistry, biology, physiology, statistics, mathematics, computer science, engineering mechanics, industrial processes, business, communication and psychology. Professional safety studies include industrial hygiene and toxicology, design of engineering hazard controls, fire protection, ergonomics, system and process safety, system safety, safety and health program management, accident investigation and analysis, product safety, construction safety, education and training methods, measurement of safety performance, human behavior, environmental safety and health, and safety, health and environmental laws, regulations and standards. Many safety engineers have backgrounds or advanced study in other disciplines, such as management and business administration, engineering, system engineering / industrial engineering, requirements engineering, reliability engineering, maintenance, human factors, operations, education, physical and social sciences and other fields. Others have advanced study in safety. This extends their expertise beyond the basics of the safety engineering profession.

Functions of a Safety Engineer[edit]

The major areas relating to the protection of people, property and the environment are:

Personality and role[edit]

Oddly enough, personality issues can be paramount in a safety engineer. They must be personally pleasant, intelligent, and ruthless with themselves and their organization. In particular, they have to be able to "sell" the failures that they discover, as well as the attendant expense and time needed to correct them. They can be the messengers of bad news.

Safety engineers have to be ruthless about getting facts from other engineers. It is common for a safety engineer to consider software, chemical, electrical, mechanical, procedural, and training problems in the same day. Often the facts can be very uncomfortable as many safety related issues point towards mediocre management systems or worse, questionable business ethics.


It's difficult and expensive to retrofit safety into an unsafe system. To prevent safety problems, an organization should therefore treat safety as an early design and "architecture" activity, using the principles of Inherent safety, rather than as a "paperwork requirement" to be cleaned up after the real design is done.

Safety engineers also must work in a team that includes other engineering specialties, quality assurance, quality improvement, regulatory compliance specialists, educators and lawyers.

Subpar safety and quality problems often indicate underlying deficiencies in an organization's goals, recruitment, succession, training, management systems and business culture.

Safety often works well in a true matrix-management organization, in which safety is a managed discipline integrated into a project plan.

See also[edit]

External links and sources[edit]

  • Trevor Kletz (1998) Process Plants: A Handbook for Inherently Safer Design CRC ISBN 1-56032-619-0
  • Frank Lees (2005). Loss Prevention in the Process Industries (3rdEdition ed.). Elsevier. ISBN 978-0-7506-7555-0.
  • American Society of Safety Engineers (official website)
  • Board of Certified Safety Professionals (official website)
  • The Safety and Reliability Society (official website)