or EHS Engineer
category of maintenance engineer is focused on
the people safety aspects of running an operation. The
engineer will provide the bridge between management and
the maintenance engineers to ensure that all safety requirements
are in compliant. This engineer will also be responsible
for the training and certification of employees who use
these assets and infrastructures.
Safety (or EHS – employee health and safety in some
cases) is an extremely regulated discipline. Companies are
exposed to great financial and legal risk if the key basic
safety regulations are not adhered to. It is up to the safety
engineer to ensure this level of compliance. It is also the
job of the safety engineer to continually look for critical
flaws in a company’s safety practices and highlight
it o management for actions.
There are in general 6 major categories of safety engineer:
- Plant and machinery safety
- Employee practices and process safety including ergonomics
- Handling of dangerous materials
- Training and development
- Regulatory audits – including
ISO compliance etc.
- Environment protection
So far, I have only talked about
external regulatory responsibilities. For engineers working
in companies that cross national
boundaries, there is an
added complication to the process. As these companies have operation in
many countries, they will be faced with a host of different
regulations in addition
to common ones. In these cases, companies try to integrate all these needs
and come up with a standard policy. The net result of this is a set of
internal policies and guidelines that will meet and in
many cases exceed local regulations.
The engineer in these operational environments will need to work with their
counterparts in other countries to ensure that local interests are taken
care of and if possible negotiate for some level of customization in the
so that costs do not balloon out of control. In many ways, this is probably
one of the hardest assignment of this engineer. To bridge local requirements
and management needs to line up with the companies integrated standards.
Finally, a bit about career
growth. Safety or EHS is clearly a good candidate for shared
This means, smaller
companies can and in general do, outsource these functions
to third party service providers. As such, safety engineers
tend to move towards consultancy careers as they mature.
Their networks with regulatory bodies and years of experience
are well sought after by many customers who’s safety
record can make or break their businesses.
One important point to note is that not every safety engineer
will become a successful consultant since consultancy require
skills that go far beyond just a strong knowledge in EHS.
The leadership, entrepreneurial and networking skills may
not be present in an individual to make consulting a viable
option. In these cases, experienced and competent safety
engineers tend to grow within their organizations as specialists
and internal consultants.
Here are some key successful characteristics for the safety
or EHS engineer:
- Technical competence in their fields. Regulatory compliance
depends on it.
- Good networking skills with regulatory bodies.
- Ability to change internal culture to enhance safety
consciousness. Normally safety is a reactive element
in a typical organization. The challenge is to
be able to make it proactive.
- Obtain key certifications to audit processes as well
as to train
- Consulting skills to provide value to all other fields
- Communications – ability
to influence change through communications.
- Good understanding of business needs and what drives
management. Understanding that culture change
starts with an understanding of how safety will
impact success in business.