Being proactive is preached constantly when discussing how to create a safe workplace. As a safety professional, you take countless proactive steps to prevent injuries in your workplace. You do everything from selecting the right tools to creating safety initiatives and establishing best practices (find out How Proactivity in the Field Improves Worker Safety).
But can you confidently say you are taking the same proactive approach with your career?
EHS Professions Are About to Face Massive Changes
It's no secret that almost every single industry will be disrupted over the coming years. This really should be no surprise, given the massive changes that have already taken place in the workplace over the last few decades. Relatively recent technologies like email and smartphones alone have flipped most professions (and the economy as a whole) on their heads.
If you think being a safety professional will shelter you from massive change and joblessness I only half-heartedly agree with you. The saving grace for many safety jobs is the necessity of the human element. The problem-solving skills used in hazard mitigation and the face-to-face interaction with employees will not easily be replaced by technology or robots (learn more in Face-to-Face Safety: The Right Way to Build a Safety Culture). New technology and robots can, however, completely change how the safety professional's work is done, leaving some professionals without a position.
What Disruptions Are Looming Around the Corner
Below are some examples of technological advancements that could disrupt safety management in the foreseeable future.
Safety Training Using Holographic Telepresence
If you're a safety consultant or training firm that depends on local businesses that want to use your onsite training services, you could be at risk of losing business to safety training companies that complete training remotely by using holographic telepresence or virtual reality.
Sounds a little too sci-fi? It won't for long: holographic telepresence is already being developed.
Virtual Reality for Location-Specific Training
Virtual reality and augmented reality will get to a point where trainees will be able to get experience on equipment, machines, and work stations without having to be in a given location. This will effectively put some training centers out of business.
Safety Inspections Completed Remotely
I have been giving more and more thought to the possibility of companies offering safety inspections remotely.
How can this be achieved? It's simpler than you might think. Drones with mounted cameras is one obvious method and it's already being used in various industries.
Another option is having an employee walk the site with live feed technology. Even that can be outsourced to technology by mounting cameras on a small wheeled vehicle or robot with live feed capabilities.
These developments could easily replace boots-on-the-ground safety management at some workplaces. Once this technology is available, can you imagine the cost and time it would save for companies that oversee various job sites?
What You Should Be Doing to Prepare
Change is inevitable, but there's no reason to fear it unless you plan on doing absolutely nothing.
If you still have a chunk of your working life ahead of you, start adjusting to these new and coming realities. Begin planning out ways to stay ahead of what companies are looking for in job openings.
As a starting point, ask yourself these two basic questions: “What do I want to do?” and “What do I need to do?”.
What Do You Want to Do?
I am a big proponent of learning the skills or gaining knowledge about the topics that interest you and turning that into a career. it sure beats taking any job that comes your way just for the sake of a paycheck. If you don't want to be a business owner then at least parlay what you're interested in into a career working for a company you love.
I write a lot of content on different platforms and I have my own websites where I share information with other safety professionals. One of the main reasons I do this is because my interests are in content creation, online business, entrepreneurship, and marketing. While I am a full-time health and safety officer during the day, I use my free time to pursue those interests and have found ways in which they intersect with my full-time career.
Learning these skills outside of my day job and putting myself out there provides me with the opportunity to pursue careers or side jobs outside of safety – or outside of the traditional safety route, at least. By continually exploring and developing these skills, I could eventually develop my own safety-related business or work for a company in a completely different capacity than I am in now.
This will leave me with more career options down the road and, more importantly to me, options I am interested in pursuing – not just opportunities I have to take for the sake of a paycheck.
What Do You Need to Do?
Unfortunately, what we want to do might not happen for numerous reasons, at least not in a timely manner. If you are more just focused on job security or securing your career path over the long term, then you have to focus on what you need to do.
What skills, industries, and positions do you see becoming in demand over the foreseeable future? What experience, knowledge, and skills do you have right now that line up with those long-term, in demand ones?
The differences between the two are the gaps you need to address. If you see that a bachelor's degree is the only way to land a job or advance in the career field or industry you want to work in, then you need to figure out a way to earn that degree (learn about The Certifications that Will Help You Advance Your Safety Career Internationally and in the UK).
Similarly, if you are an experienced, certified, and degreed professional but you see that the industry you have most of your experience in is dwindling down, you probably should be thinking of making the jump to a more promising industry as soon as possible.
What you need to do will depend where the profession as a whole is going, but it will depend even more on where you are currently at in your career and what gaps you need to address.
Safety professionals are constantly pushing the idea that we need to be proactive. You are probably the one pushing that message to employees so they get to go home safe and healthy at the end of every work day.
But are you taking your own advice? How proactive are you in your career?
Professionals in any field should be looking at what gaps they have when it comes to the skills, experience, and knowledge the job market is looking for. Taking a proactive approach to addressing the gaps can make the difference in whether you have a job or not in five years.
It is difficult to accurately predict changes and larger trends in entire professions over long periods of time. But unless you give it careful thought and take calculated action, it will be more difficult to make transitions when needed.