What is a safety man or woman? A safety man or woman is a general term that covers some of the following occupational classifications in Canada and the US:

  • Environmental health officer

  • Health and safety officer

  • Health standards inspector

  • Occupational health and safety officer

  • Pollution control inspector

  • Public health inspector

  • Restaurant inspector

  • Rodent control officer supervisor

  • Public health inspector

  • Water inspector

  • Safety officer

  • Safety project manager

  • Safety manager

There are many other titles and classifications in this field, but the general idea of these occupations is to ensure that a businesses, industry, and the workforce is operating safely. This involves a multi-tier process that usually starts with an inspection of the industry or business, the identification of any hazards, and ensuring safe work methods are implemented, as well as communicating safety concerns between workers, management and external bodies. In other words, it isn't easy.

The Health and Safety Landscape

Safety professionals are usually trained in a post-secondary setting in health and science, health and safety, or some other related discipline. These individuals are expected to have sound decision-making skills and excellent judgment when assessing health and safety related situations. They are the people that are sent in after an accident has happened to determine causes, and are experts in finding links between the causal relationships of hazards and accidents. With this information, they are able to implement new strategies in safe work procedures to reduce the risk of accidents reoccuring in the future. As a result, many companies who have had accidents happen hire safety professionals to redesign work processes and workflow to ensure better safety going forward.

Service Canada writes:

"In the private sector, the high cost of contributions paid only by employers, along with an awareness of the indirect costs involved in occupational accidents (slowdowns in production, training of new workers, decreased productivity when people return from leave, etc.) have led to a strong increase in employer demand for services designed to eliminate the causes of work accidents. These services of course include health and safety inspectors who work directly for companies on subcontracts or for employer or labour/management associations. Given all of these factors, the number of inspectors in public and environmental health and occupational health and safety is expected to increase significantly over the next few years"

Another reason for an increase in the hiring of safety workers is to ensure compliance and accountability among a workforce. If the workforce is not accountable to a specific person, then they may just cut corners and sacrifice safety at the cost of production. The safety worker is also a friend of the workforce and works to support their requests to upper management, so that any dangerous or hazardous encounters can be noted and implemented into the safe-work process. They are often responsible for reporting to the workers, and acting as a liaison between upper management, contractors, stakeholders, external governing agencies, and auditors. Having a safety man or woman on board to handle these communications, as well as overseeing inspections and operations is not a light task, and many large companies have more than one person working in a safety management capacity. Given that, and the increased push for safe work and safe management practices, there seems to be a growing trend in safety work for the next generation of workers.

Companies are also required to prove that they are safe. For example, if a contractor wants to work on a job, they will often have to include in their bid how they will get the job done safely. If they put their bid in saying that their crew is safe versus a company that says they have a safety officer to ensure safe work procedures are being followed and that the employees are compliant with the guidelines, the business with safety oriented production plans is usually favored. Because an accident can tarnish any company’s reputation, as well as cost thousands (if not millions) of dollars, and even cause injury and death, there is no room for unsafe work practices in today’s world. As a result, safety is everyone’s responsibility - at least in the best-run, most forward-thinking companies.

For more information, research you favorite college or university to find a program that will help you transition into a safety job today. Safety men and women are in demand in both the public and private sector, and have built up a sense of culture over the past decade. With an increase in accountability required from businesses by external governing agencies auditors, many companies have hired safety professionals to ensure that the specifics of a job are being followed, and are getting more interaction with workers day to day.

So next time you see a safety man or woman, give him or her a handshake and thank them for all the hard work they are doing!