This is an excerpt from our free guide on building an EHS career. It overviews three essential categories of knowledge that provide the foundation for a career as a safety professional.
Basic safety knowledge
To succeed in the field of environmental health and safety, there are some fundamental practices, issues and other pieces of knowledge that you need to possess.
Can you imagine a safety manager who doesn’t know about the hierarchy of controls? Or an EHS specialist who’s never heard of an incident investigation? Probably not, because they’d be out of a job pretty quickly.
Here’s a quick list of safety basics. Knowledge of these areas is a prerequisite for a successful career in the EHS field:
- hierarchy of controls
- hazard recognition
- OSHA regulations for your industry
- risk analysis
- record keeping
If you want to work in safety and many of these concepts are unfamiliar to you, it’s time to kick-start your education.
A safety course or degree will get you up to speed quickly and many can be completed online. Subscribing to reputable magazines like Occupational Health & Safety and Safety+Health will also help you learn about contemporary discussions in the safety industry.
Advanced safety knowledge
Safety has come a long way since OSHA opened its doors in 1971. Technological advances and industrial booms have presented new opportunities and challenges to keeping workers healthy and safe.
Our collective thinking about safety has come a long way too. We now have advanced concepts that are intended to push the threshold of safe workplaces… and a few ideas that are still up for debate.
How familiar are you with the following concepts?
- behavior-based safety
- human and organizational performance
- leading indicators
- serious injuries and fatalities
- workplace safety culture
- human error and human factors
If you want to advance your safety career then you need to understand these advanced concepts.
There’s one common feature in every workplace—people. And if there’s one thing that every person has in common, it’s that we all make mistakes.
Even though the section on advanced safety knowledge touched on human error, it’s such an important topic that it deserves its own place on the list of safety essentials.
Humans don’t behave consistently at all times. Instead, their actions and abilities fluctuate in real time based on a number of influences called human factors.
Here’s a handful of human factors and how they affect people in the workplace:
- Rushing increases risk of error, more likely to work beyond safe/comfortable limits
- Frustration makes workers more likely to take an abrupt action that causes injury
- Fatigue causes slower reaction times, less attentive to surroundings
- Complacency makes it more likely to overlook crucial step, skewed perception of risk
- Sadness causes people to be less aware of external dangers
- Stress exacerbates other factors, increases overall level of risk
If your knowledge of one or more of these areas is a little lacking, it’s time to start learning. But don’t worry, you don’t need to figure it all out overnight. By taking a slow but steady approach, you can transform yourself into a more versatile and well-rounded safety professional—and that’s a worthwhile goal no matter what your career aspirations are.
Read the complete EHS Careers Guide to learn how to give yourself the inside track on establishing a successful career in the health and safety field. It reviews 16 important qualities, skills and traits required to excel in an EHS career. Few people have all of them—but the more you have, the better you’ll be as a safety leader.