By Ashley Johnson, associate editor
Life was not supposed to go this way.
A site safety manager* in construction told Safety+Health that he worries he will soon be out of work after 27 years in the safety field and almost a decade with his present employer. His employer was taken over by another company in 2010, and the construction industry as a whole has taken a hit. “There’s a great deal of fear,” he said.
He added that many of his co-workers are operating on the “fear factor” – they do not want to find new jobs but know they need to start looking. “I didn’t figure at this age I was going to have to look,” he continued. “Things change. It’s not just changes at my company; the economy changed.”
While the majority of respondents to the 2012 Job Outlook survey expressed confidence in their job security, 2 percent chose “I believe strongly I will lose my job” and an additional 11 percent indicated a “slight possibility” they will lose their job.
Another theme that emerged in this year’s survey was putting off retirement. Among respondents who had planned to retire within the next five to 10 years, 44 percent said the economy has delayed their plans.
One was a man who was laid off in 1999 after 30 years with an insurance company. The respondent, who is in his mid-60s, said he experienced age discrimination while looking for another job – one interviewer asked his age and others told him they wanted younger workers.
On top of that, the recent financial crisis drained his retirement cushion. He now is working for the local government “and I don’t anticipate retiring,” he said. “I can’t even envision when that’s going to happen because I’m trying to recoup from the ’07-’08 disaster.”
A safety manager in the health care industry said he was nervous about losing his job because his employer was bought out by an investment firm and his group likely will be sold off, leaving him at the mercy of the acquiring company.
Looking back, he expressed regret that he put off becoming a Certified Safety Professional because he did not expect to stay in safety. “If I had to do any one thing to shore up my hire-ability it would be the CSP designation,” he said.
The construction site safety manager also listed actions he wished he had taken to improve his career prospects, such as taking professional development courses and networking with other safety professionals. “You have to prepare for the what-ifs,” he said, raising the following scenario: What if a safety professional has been doing the same thing at the same company for 10-20 years and suddenly has to find a new employer? “You’re going to be at a keen disadvantage,” he said.
Faced with the possibility of having to find a new job, he is considering leaving construction or even switching professions.
“I’m optimistic about safety as a trade,” he said. “I’m pessimistic about my situation, and I’m sure a lot of other people are too.”
*Names withheld to allow respondents to speak openly about their job situation.