Over the past few decades, safety has become one of the most important topics across industrial-related careers. This is especially true for those whose jobs involve handling machines or chemicals that could pose a serious health threat if misused.
Furthermore, manager and high-level executives have now taken on an increased level of responsibility to ensure that everyone underneath them is following the safety protocols. And they’re educating themselves on how to keep their workplace as safe as possible.
What does this mean for you? Because of the technical complexities involved in safety regulations and protocols, many employees don’t have the time to sit and pore through all the information and updates. Safety regulations vary based on the industry you’re in and the materials you handle. And trying to memorize them can be a challenging mental task that arguably gets in the way of the job itself.
Given the time-consuming and incredibly detailed nature of this task, you can see the opportunity here for a potential career. An abundant number of organizations are desperately seeking safety personnel whose primary job is to keep everyone safe from potential harm where possible.
Industrial Safety Careers Paths
You could be the person who negotiates the removal or addition of certain safety rules. You can be the one responsible for enforcing the rules among employees, regardless of their rank, to keep everybody in check. You could even be the problem-solver who saves the day when something goes wrong and no one knows how to handle the problem in a safe, effective manner.
There are several safety job positions out there, but this article will cover five of the top ones. We chose them because of the potential they have for career growth — not just in terms of the paycheck you receive, but also in terms of promotions, continuous self-improvement and the amount of opportunities available.
CAREER #1: SAFETY TECHNICIAN
Average Annual Salary: $40–$50K
Most Common Industry: Manufacturing, particularly those specializing in durable goods
Best Cities for Employment: Industry-heavy places like San Jose and Los Angeles, CA
Education Required: A majority tend to have a high school diploma or post-secondary degree. Roughly 1/10th have a post-graduate degree.
A safety technician is one of those positions in which current workers may find themselves migrating toward. Either the employee is recommended by a high-level manager, or they take the initiative themselves when the position opens. Because they’ve already been working in the industry, they have the familiarity of the day-to-day work being done in the company.
Once equipped with the safety regulations at the local, state and federal levels, safety technicians inspect equipment and working stations to ensure everything is following regulations. The safety technician is then responsible for documenting their safety inspections along with any mishaps, how they were corrected and how they’ll be prevented going forward.
CAREER #2: SAFETY CONSULTANT
Average Annual Salary: $60–$75K
Most Common Industry: Education industry, various levels of government. This role isn’t found in the manufacturing industry as often.
Best Cities for Employment: Atlanta and Detroit
Education Required: Bachelor’s degree
A safety consultant is a more freeform position compared to the other careers mentioned here. Instead of working for a single company for many years, the safety consultant likely spends a lot of time traveling and consulting for various companies. A majority of safety consultants are hired by smaller companies with a total workforce of 500 or fewer employees.
Using their education and expertise in the regulatory practices for safety health, this person evaluates worksites, performs safety inspections and advises companies on how they can better train employees to follow safe working practices. This may include additional training, recommending the purchase of new equipment, or outlining plans on how companies can better adhere to safety standards like those laid out by OSHA.
CAREER #3: SAFETY SPECIALIST
Average Annual Salary: $70–$85K
Most Common Industry: Just like the safety technician, safety specialists are usually seen within the manufacturing goods industries.
Best Cities for Employment: Philadelphia and Washington D.C.
Education Required: Master’s degree in specific field of interest, or other level of post-graduate education
Safety specialists are extremely specialized within a particular niche of safety along with a specific subset of an industry. You can expect to see them developing or making changes to the policies and procedures of a company with regards to workplace safety.
They spend most of their time within a company doing regular checks of equipment, protocols and environments to ensure everything is in accordance with health and safety standards.
For example, if your company regularly uses a step-up platform, a safety specialist would go through a comprehensive checklist to ensure this piece of equipment meets all safety standards. Are the dimensions still okay? Is there any sign of damage or wear and tear that needs to be immediately addressed? Does this piece of equipment need to be replaced? Does it still meet the OSHA standards for fixed stair platforms?
This position tends to attract a high number of educated individuals. It’s also common that safety specialists are hired by companies with 5000+ employees.
CAREER #4: SAFETY SUPERVISOR
Average Annual Salary: $83–$90K
Most Common Industry: Construction industry
Best Cities for Employment: Construction-dominant cities, such as Houston and Indianapolis
Education Required: Bachelor’s degree, at minimum, in addition to many years of work experience (up to a decade)
Much like a safety technician, the safety supervisor usually has a background working at the company. With several years of experience to back up their credentials, they have a complete understanding of the day-to-day workplace, including who the employees are as well as their respective responsibilities.The safety supervisor doesn’t spend as much time on-site with other workers. In fact, a good portion of their workday is dealing with administrative activities related to workplace health and safety.
Typical job duties include regular inspections and monitoring of employee activity to ensure everyone is following the safety procedures and policies dictated by management. These supervisors know what regulating agencies like OSHA require, and they play a crucial role in preventing unnecessary personal injuries and fines from occurring on the work floor.
CAREER #5: SAFETY DIRECTOR
Average Annual Salary: $95–$125K
Most Common Industry: Construction industry
Best Cities for Employment: Construction-heavy cities, such as Chicago and Houston
Education Required: Master’s degree or MBA in business or management, related to their specific industry
The safety director is one of the highest, if not the highest, safety-related roles you can land within a company. This person is responsible for managing the health and safety initiatives across the entire company. They personally oversee the efforts made by all of the workers, and in particular those in the industrial safety positions mentioned here.
In addition to being experts in their chosen industry, they must also involve themselves in regular negotiations and meetings with human resources, managers from other departments and high-level executives to ensure that everything in the company related to safety is under control. A safety director’s overall goal is to improve safety while simultaneously increasing worker productivity.
Directors tend to be the most educated and experienced individuals out of all the safety careers. They usually have a few decades of experience under their belt before they take on such an important role. These individuals are highly paid, but also hold an incredibly high degree of responsibility. Much like safety supervisors, safety directors tend to aggregate within the construction industry.
Don’t Be Afraid to Ask Questions
If you are currently working in an industrial field, like manufacturing or construction, you’re likely already fairly well set up to land one of these positions. The experience and expertise you’ve gained from your current job, including familiarity with the industry and how your workplace operates, will help to qualify you for a career in industrial safety. All you’ll need from there is a solid understanding of the relevant health and safety regulations.
For more information on this kind of career path, there are a number of websites that can provide you with more details. You can learn about safety specialists operating within your industry and what a day in their life looks like, as well as what the future holds for these careers. Numerous videos and written testimonials from industrial safety workers are available. And if you still have questions, don’t be afraid to pick up the phone and call one of these workers. Most will be more than happy to answer questions and tell you about their career.