Safety engineers use their knowledge and engineering skills to ensure that workplaces, conditions, work practices and products remain safe. The duties of a safety engineer vary depending on where they are employed. The demand for safety engineers is constantly high as the need for safety in the workplace is ever-present. As new technologies are continually invented they need to be checked to make sure that they are safe to be used; this happens during both the design and development stage as well as just before the product is released.
The most common way to gain entry into a career in safety engineering is through formal education. This involves gaining at least five GCSEs graded A*-C including maths, English and science and may include relevant subjects such as sociology and design. After this you should continue on to study A-levels in maths and design in order to gain entry to a university degree in safety engineering.
Another way is to complete a more practical course such as a B-TEC or Higher National Diploma (HND) or Certificate (HNC). This may be more suited to those who prefer a more hands-on education. After this you can start a university degree in safety engineering, which will involve both theoretical and practical training, as well as allowing you to specialise in your particular area of interest within the subject.
The skills needed to become a safety engineer include an eye for detail, a strong analytical mind and an aptitude for problem solving. It is also very important to have excellent inter-personal skills as a lot of the work involved in safety engineering requires working with a team of different professionals in order to create the best product, or construct the best building, possible.
Experience in any area of engineering would be beneficial as it will help you understand the type of environment you will be working in. You could try gaining work experience by approaching an engineering firm as they may allow you to follow a safety engineer so that you can see first-hand the role they play in the work place. More opportunities for work-based experience will be available at university as many courses allow for a placement year, usually in the second or third year of the course, where you will be assessed through your work at an engineering practice. The more experience you gain throughout your career the more appealing you will be to employers. You will find that you develop many transferable expertise as you move from one project to another making you a better, and safer, employee.
The salary of a safety engineer is highly dependent on the type of work you are doing, the type of contract you are offered, your experience and where in the world you are working. Entry level jobs checking electrical systems and wiring can pay between £35 and £100 an hour but are short-term contracts based on testing a particular site. You may be offered a full-time position where you will be responsible for workplace safety which typically brings an annual salary of between £25,000 and £40,000 a year, depending on your experience. If you become a senior safety advisor you may receive job offers from around the world working alongside chemical or aeronautical engineers based in the middle east which can often bring a salary of over £50,000 a year plus benefits.