This Labor Day, Don’t Take Workplace Safety for Granted

This Labor Day, Don’t Take Workplace Safety for Granted

The Safety Professional Shortage: A Student Perspective

Kathy Bernstein is director of volunteers and awards at the National Safety Council.

For many of us, Labor Day weekend is a nice, three-day break to relax from our everyday workload and struggles. But there is one struggle that can greatly impact our work lives, and most of us are not even aware of it: A growing shortage of qualified safety professionals.

In the 2018 Job Outlook Survey, Safety+Health magazine reports that 58% of respondents have personally observed a shortage of qualified, occupational safety and health professionals. Sixty-two percent believe more employers will look within the organization to fill safety and health professions (even if the employee has little to no safety experience). With workplace fatalities on the rise, surely we want experienced people in charge of our safety at work.

Over the next year, the Safety First blog will look into the impact of the shortage of safety professionals from a variety of perspectives, starting with students pursuing safety degrees. Many of the students featured in this post are recipients of National Safety Council scholarships. NSC scholarships provide student members full funding to attend the NSC Congress & Expo, the world's premier safety conference.

Let’s see what they have to say.

How did you learn about safety as a profession?

I had a close family friend within my church that was in the safety field. I shadowed her on a couple jobs and conferences and instantly got hooked. She always saw my passion for helping others and really encouraged me to explore a safety profession. This allowed me to seek out the Environmental, Health and Safety program at Oakland University; I did not hesitate to sign up. I am going on my third year in the program and I love it. The opportunities this program and profession holds are very encouraging for a young professional like me.
Adam Klebba, Oakland University, Rochester, MI

What inspired you to get a degree in safety? What degree are you working toward?

I'm working towards my BS in Occupational Safety and Health. I chose to pursue this degree because I realized safety was the first aspect of my work that really interested me and I wanted make it a career.
– Susan Ronhaar, Oakland University, Rochester, MI

Were you aware of the shortage of safety professionals before you began your degree? Did this influence your decision?

I knew there was a demand for safety professionals. My work experience influenced my decision.
Salena Barnhill, Metropolitan Community College, Kansas City, MO

What do you hope to accomplish by being a safety professional?

I hope to manage an environmental and occupational health program in the energy, agriculture or chemical industries. I’d like to reduce the number of injuries and maintain a “gold standard” quality type of program.
– Leeroy Cienega, University of Texas Health Science Center, Houston

What advice would you give to younger students who might not have considered safety as a profession?

If you strongly value people and/or the environment and want to make an impactful difference, be open to opportunities within this career path.
Krystal Sibert, University of Wisconsin, Whitewater

Has anyone helped mentor your throughout your safety education?

I have had many people mentor me throughout my education. My professors have made the biggest impact on my outlook of the profession, but I have also received sound advice from professionals that I have come to meet and work with through the ASSP and ISU Safety Program.
Justin Artman, Illinois State University, Normal

At NSC, we believe it is crucial to help grow the safety profession, which is why we offer free student membership. The next generation of safety leaders will hopefully help us greatly reduce workplace injuries and fatalities. As Labor Day is a time to reflect and relax, we must remember that safety never takes a break.

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