Most people nowadays, when they’re choosing their careers, are just interested in chasing the big bucks rather than doing something they’re passionate about. However, a job in safety actually gives you the best of both worlds.
Working in safety offers you the opportunity to help others, give back, improve families & lives, and make a great income while you’re at it. One thing that most people don’t know about being a safety manager is that you can actually make 6 figures.
If you are looking for a career that is people focused and life changing, then this might be the job for you!
Becoming a Safety Manager
Not everyone who becomes a safety manager knew that this was what they wanted to do when they left school or entered college. A common thread in Safety Managers is they experienced a bad accident in the workplace and then started looking into safety, realizing that they have a passion for it.
Another way people get a job in safety management is that it just gets dumped in their lap. You could be a supervisor and then one day your boss says “Congratulations, you are now the Safety Manager! Good luck with that”.
Other times people do strive to get a job in safety management and they work hard enough to prove that they deserve to be in that role.
The way I landed in the Safety Manager position was that I had a role that required me to pay attention to safety and then when I changed jobs the safety department from that company recruited me because I was familiar with safety.
It’s a true passion of mine and I wouldn’t change career fields for anything!
The More People with a Job in Safety the Better
The COVID crisis has changed the workforce. As the world starts to open up, I think we’ll start to see more departments taking on the role of safety due to the amount of layoffs that have happened in this period.
There’ll be a lot of restructuring taking place, which means HR departments and supervisors will have more safety responsibilities. This could mean a new opportunity for you if you’re trying to move into the safety department!
It typically takes about 3-5 years once you get your foot in the door with a job in safety to really be able to understand and navigate safety enough where you can make some real changes.
In the beginning, especially if safety has been absent at the company, there may be a large amount of accidents happening. You may start questioning why they keep happening and why people aren’t following the rules.
Try not to freak out! This is normal in the beginning and it will take time for you to change the safety culture that is currently in place, if there’s one at all.
When starting in a new safety position, things may get worse before they get better: as employees start to report hazards they were keeping secret.
Over time, as your skills as a Safety Manager improve, you will see the culture at your company improve. Keep in mind that it is a continuous process of improvement with no finish line. Plus, you have me to help you out!
Getting your Foot in the Door to Get a Job in Safety
When you’re looking to transfer into Safety, there’re steps you can take to get noticed, to learn more and be front of mind when a job in safety opens up.
- Volunteering for your safety committee
- Networking with your current safety managers (If there isn’t one you can start networking with upper management)
- Offering safety solutions and safety suggestions
- Shadowing the safety manager
When management decides that they need someone in safety, they usually start by looking internally. If you follow these suggestions then your name will keep popping up and they’ll realize how hard you are working. You have positioned yourself as a great candidate to promote. This is how you get your foot in the door!
Safety Wears Multiple Hats
Safety means more than just keeping the injury numbers down. You have to be a marketing specialist, purchaser, negotiator, communications department, manage claims, and so much more!
Check out this article I wrote about safety responsibilities.
At one of my old jobs people used to say “Wow, I want your job! All you do is stand around and watch people”. What they didn’t know was that I was observing the employees safety habits as part of my job.
My job description was actually 4 pages long.
There is a lot of office work, as well as, computer work involved with a job in safety. You need to know statistics, trending, and all of the office software programs.
If you’re not very computer savvy, you might not be very successful in this position. Even the best safety coaches I have seen have a hard time excelling when they can’t handle the computer side of the job.
Start learning those computer skills now as you’re considering a job in safety. It will pay off in the long run.
If you’re brand new in the safety field then you should spend your time getting a strong understanding of the foundation.
There are different regulations based on the field you’re working in. Safety is usually broken down into four different areas:
- General Industry
Not everyone with a job in safety has a strong understanding of all four. Try to find which industry you’re most interested in and then figure out which field that falls under so you can become familiar with their regulations.
To learn the regulations, you can do it manually with a book or you can learn via the website. OSHA.gov has a ton of information and it is easily accessible. Not only can you read the regulation, but also the committee minutes & notes that created the regulation and OSHA’s interpretation of the regulation.
States can set their own safety regulations as long as they meet the minimum set by the federal government. California has historically had the strictest rules. So if you can meet their regulations, you’re usually meeting all the others.
Don’t worry about memorizing the regulations. Just start from the beginning, learn the process, learn the words, and get familiar with them. To be a successful Safety Manager you just have to be able to realize that a regulation applies to a certain situation and then you can go look it up.
Some employers will pay for you to further your education as a Safety Manager; some won’t. Don’t wait for your employer to pay for the class, invest in your education and it will pay off as you move up in your career.
Regularly sign up for webinars, in person seminars, and different classes to help you learn the job better. In the beginning stages of a job in safety you need to educate yourself as much as possible.
Go to OSHA’s websites and look at the different citations that companies get. This is an awesome learning experience for someone trying to become familiar with the job. You can quiz yourself on what regulation applied to the incident in that citation.
Check out my post about getting certified in safety for continuing education courses.
To Get a Job in Safety – Speak Up!
If you want a job in safety management you have to make it known. Let your boss know that you’re interested in a career in the safety department and when a position becomes available they’ll be more likely to consider you for the job.
Now that you know how to get your foot in the door for a job in safety, get out there and start doing the things I suggested and I promise you will be more likely to succeed as a safety Manager.
NOW IT’S YOUR TURN
I would love to know if you have tried any of these tips! Have they worked for you? Have you gotten into the safety department?
Tell me in the comments below!
Hi, I'm Brye (rhymes with sky)! I am a self-proclaimed safety geek with two decades of general industry safety experience. Specializing in bringing safety programs to a world-class level and building a safety culture, I have trained and coached many safety managers, just like you, on how to effectively manage workplace safety in the real world. I would love to help you too.