Health and safety engineers develop procedures and design systems to protect people from illness and injury and property from damage. They combine knowledge of engineering and of health and safety to make sure that chemicals, machinery, software, furniture, and other products will not cause harm to people or damage to property.
Health and safety engineers typically do the following:
- Maintain and apply knowledge of current health and safety policies, regulations, and industrial processes
- Review plans and specifications for new machinery and equipment to make sure that they meet safety requirements
- Identify and correct potential hazards by inspecting facilities, machinery, and safety equipment
- Evaluate the effectiveness of various industrial control mechanisms
- Ensure that buildings or products comply with health and safety regulations, especially after an inspection that required changes
- Install safety devices on machinery or direct the installation of these devices
- Review employee safety programs and recommend improvements
Health and safety engineers also investigate industrial accidents and injuries to determine their causes and to determine whether the incidents were avoidable or can be prevented in the future. They interview employers and employees to learn about work environments and incidents that lead to accidents or injuries. They also evaluate the corrections that were made to remedy violations found during health inspections.
Health and safety engineering is a broad field covering many activities. The following are examples of types of health and safety engineers:
Fire prevention and protection engineers conduct analyses and make recommendations regarding the potential fire hazards of buildings, materials, and transportation systems. They also design, install, and maintain fire prevention and suppression systems and inspect systems to ensure that they meet government safety regulations. Fire prevention and protection engineers must be licensed and must keep up with changes in fire codes and regulations.
Product safety engineers, sometimes called product compliance engineers, develop and conduct tests to make sure that various products are safe and comply with industry or government safety regulations. These engineers work on a wide range of products, from nuclear submarine reactors and robotics to cell phones and computer systems.
Systems safety engineers identify and analyze risks and hazards associated with system designs in order to make them safe while ensuring that the systems remain operational and effective. They work in many fields, including aerospace, and are moving into new fields, such as software safety, medical safety, and environmental safety.
For information on health and safety engineers who work in mines, see the profile on mining and geological engineers.
Health and safety engineers held about 27,000 jobs in 2018. The largest employers of health and safety engineers were as follows:
|Management, scientific, and technical consulting services||4|
Health and safety engineers typically work in offices. However, they also must spend time at worksites when necessary, which sometimes requires travel.
Most health and safety engineers work full time.
Health and safety engineers must have a bachelor’s degree, typically in environmental health and safety or in an engineering discipline. Employers value practical experience, so cooperative-education engineering programs at universities are valuable as well.
Entry-level jobs for health and safety engineers require a bachelor’s degree, typically in environmental health and safety or in an engineering discipline, such as electrical, chemical, mechanical, industrial, or systems engineering. Bachelor’s degree programs typically include classroom, laboratory, and field studies in applied engineering. Engineering students interested in becoming health and safety engineers also should take courses in occupational safety and health, industrial hygiene, ergonomics, or environmental safety. ABET accredits programs in engineering.
Many colleges and universities offer cooperative-education programs, which allow students to gain practical experience while completing their education.
A few colleges and universities offer 5-year accelerated programs through which students graduate with both a bachelor’s and a master’s degree. A master’s degree allows engineers to enter the occupation at a higher level, from which they can develop and implement safety systems.
Communication skills. Health and safety engineers must be able to interpret federal and state regulations and their intent so that they can propose proper designs for specific work environments. Health and safety engineers also prepare and present training materials to workers and must be able to describe new regulations and procedures to a variety of audiences.
Creativity. Health and safety engineers produce designs showing potential problems and remedies for them. They must be creative, in order to deal with situations that are unique to a project.
Critical-thinking skills. Health and safety engineers must be able to identify hazards to humans and property in the workplace or in the home before those hazards cause material damage or become a health threat.
Observational skills. Health and safety engineers must observe and learn how operations function so that they can identify risks to people and property. This requires the ability to think in terms of overall processes within an organization. Health and safety engineers can then recommend systemic changes to minimize risks.
Problem-solving skills. In designing solutions for entire organizational operations, health and safety engineers must take into account processes from more than one system at the same time. In addition, they must try to anticipate a range of human reactions to the changes they recommend.
Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations
Licensure is not required for entry-level positions as a health and safety engineer. A Professional Engineering (PE) license, which allows for higher levels of leadership and independence, can be acquired later in one’s career. Licensed engineers are called professional engineers (PEs). A PE can oversee the work of other engineers, sign off on projects, and provide services directly to the public. State licensure generally requires
- A degree from an ABET-accredited engineering program
- A passing score on the Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) exam
- Relevant work experience, typically at least 4 years
- A passing score on the Professional Engineering (PE) exam
The initial FE exam can be taken after one earns a bachelor’s degree. Engineers who pass this exam are commonly called engineers in training (EITs) or engineer interns (EIs). After meeting work experience requirements, EITs and EIs can take the second exam, called the Principles and Practice of Engineering (PE).
Each state issues its own licenses. Most states recognize licensure from other states, as long as the licensing state’s requirements meet or exceed their own licensure requirements. Several states require continuing education for engineers to keep their licenses.
Health and safety engineers can earn professional certifications, including the following:
- The Board of Certified Safety Professionals offers the Certified Safety Professional (CSP) certification, the Occupational Health and Safety Technologist (OHST) certification, and the new Associate Safety Professional (ASP) certification
- The American Board of Industrial Hygiene awards the Certified Industrial Hygienist (CIH) certification
- The American Society of Safety Professionals offers a Certificate in Safety Management (CSM)
- The International Council on Systems Engineering offers a program leading to designation as a Certified Systems Engineering Professional (CSEP)
The median annual wage for health and safety engineers was $89,130 in May 2018.
The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $53,170, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $142,970.
In May 2018, the median annual wages for health and safety engineers in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:
|Management, scientific, and technical consulting services||$98,240|
Most health and safety engineers work full time.
Health and Safety Engineers
Median annual wages, May 2018
- Health and safety engineers
- Total, all occupations
Employment of health and safety engineers is projected to grow 5 percent from 2018 to 2028, about as fast as the average for all occupations.
Health and safety engineers are employed mainly in construction, manufacturing, state and local government, and engineering and consulting firms. As buildings, products, and processes continue to become more complex and new regulations are created, these engineers will be needed to reduce costs, save lives, and produce safe consumer products.
|Occupational Title||SOC Code||Employment, 2018||Projected Employment, 2028||Change, 2018-28||Employment by Industry|
SOURCE: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employment Projections program
Health and safety engineers, except mining safety engineers and inspectors
This table shows a list of occupations with job duties that are similar to those of health and safety engineers.
|Occupation||Job Duties||Entry-Level Education||Median Annual Pay, May 2018|
Construction and Building Inspectors
Construction and building inspectors ensure that construction meets building codes and ordinances, zoning regulations, and contract specifications.
|High school diploma or equivalent||$59,700|
Fire inspectors examine buildings in order to detect fire hazards and ensure that federal, state, and local fire codes are met.
|See How to Become One||$60,200|
Industrial engineers devise efficient systems that integrate workers, machines, materials, information, and energy to make a product or provide a service.
Mining and Geological Engineers
Mining and geological engineers design mines to safely and efficiently remove minerals for use in manufacturing and utilities.
Occupational Health and Safety Specialists and Technicians
Occupational health and safety specialists and technicians collect data on and analyze many types of work environments and work procedures.
|See How to Become One||$69,370|
For information about general engineering education and career resources, visit
Technology Student Association
For more information about accredited engineering programs, visit
For more information about the Professional Engineer license, visit
For information about protecting worker health, visit
American Industrial Hygiene Association
For information about certification, visit
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Health and Safety Engineers,
on the Internet at https://www.bls.gov/ooh/architecture-and-engineering/health-and-safety-engineers.htm (visited ).
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