Safety – The Accidental Career

Interesting survey from the National Safety Council.   The NSC does an annual Job Survey of its magazine subscribers.  One of the key findings is that, for 75% of the respondents, safety was not their first career choice.    Most of them also said they were didn’t know it was a career when they were in college.  One factor may be that the majority of people in the poll are older than 50 and safety wasn’t a widely taught field when they went to school.

It strikes me there are two directions the profession can go with this.

  1. Do a better job of promoting the field to students – The article that accompanies the survey points out that safety is an attractive profession for individuals who are motivated to help others, but still want to pick up a healthy paycheck.   One thing I have observed here in Louisiana is that a lot of college freshman are initially attracted to engineering, but lose interest or get beaten up by the math requirements.  Safety, with its focus on human elements and other softer skills, may be an ideal option for these kids.
  2. Consider whether it is really a bad thing for people to not have safety as their first career choice – Maybe a little outside experience is a good thing in a safety guy.   One of the weaknesses in the field are professionals who apply rigid approaches to safety problems.   Some understanding of why we do things may be a critical skillset.

There is also the concern that safety should not be its own island, separate and apart from other departments.   David Dykes of Chevron made the very good point at a recent conference that there should be no wall of separation between operations and safety. Cross-pollinating staff between safety and other departments helps lower those barriers.

Other interesting findings from the survey – A quarter of the respondents said their companies have added safety staff in the last six months and intend on adding more in the next year.   That is not bad, given the economy and the perception that safety is a cost center.   Also, only 22% of the respondents were female.   That gender gap needs to be addressed.

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