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Environmental Health and Safety Engineers

Environmental health and safety engineers create and monitor safety programs to correct potentially unsafe working conditions.

Environmental health and safety engineers oversee safety and environmental programs for organizations. They are responsible for making sure that firms comply with legal standards.

Quick Facts

Why green?

Environmental health and safety engineers are responsible for making sure that firms comply with environmental regulations. Many work on air quality issues and the use or disposal of hazardous materials.

Wages:

Median wages for the broader occupation, Industrial Safety and Health Engineers, are $43.08/hour.


Typical Education and Training Needed:

A Bachelor's degree is common.


Job Title Examples:

Environmental, Health, and Safety (EHS) Manager; Safety and Health Consultant; Safety, Health, and Environment Vice President



Career Description

Environmental health and safety engineers oversee worker safety programs and policies in manufacturing and other industries. They also have related duties in environmental compliance. They have these varied duties in part because of the relationship between hazardous materials and working environments, worker safety, and larger environmental stewardship. The occupation is something of a hybrid, combining the duties of industrial health and safety engineers and environmental compliance managers. While these workers may not necessarily be licensed professional engineers, they do need to understand some engineering principles.

Environmental health and safety engineers are found in firms that work with potentially harmful materials, equipment, or processes. This includes hazardous chemicals, radiation, heavy machinery, dangerous locations like mines or construction sites, and loud noise. They use their knowledge of mechanics, chemistry, production processes, and human behavior to ensure that potential risks are minimized. They may also work for government agencies, insurance companies, or as independent consultants.

Environmental health and safety engineers work at a professional level: they are often heads of departments or vice presidents of companies. In commercial settings, they are responsible not only for implementing safety programs and investigating potential risks, but also for ensuring that firms comply with safety and environmental regulations. It is sometimes necessary for them to oversee costly equipment or process changes, address unsafe situations that may have been caused by lax standards or unethical business practices, or deal with other sensitive situations. They must be skilled communicators and managers in addition to having the technical expertise to effectively manage safety and environmental compliance issues.


Tasks

  • Evaluate hazardous material handling procedures to make sure they comply with environmental and safety requirements.
  • Inspect facilities, machinery, and safety equipment to find and correct potential hazards, and to make sure everything complies with environmental regulations.
  • Install (or oversee the installation of) safety devices on machinery.
  • Interview employers and employees to get information about work environments and workplace incidents.
  • Investigate industrial accidents, injuries, or occupation-related diseases to understand the causes and try to prevent them.
  • Keep up to date about current policies, regulations, and industrial processes.
  • Recommend safety features to reduce employees' exposure to chemical, physical, and biological hazards and to support the organization's environmental goals.
  • Report or review findings from accident investigations, facilities inspections, or environmental testing.
  • Review environmental and employee safety programs to determine whether they are adequate.
  • Review plans for construction of new machinery or equipment to make sure all safety requirements have been met.

indicates a green-related task.


Education & Credentials


Education level requirements

A Bachelor's degree is common.

Most students prepare for this field by earning a bachelor's degree in a related field, such as environmental and safety management or industrial engineering. Many four-year colleges and universities offer these or other closely related degree programs. While environmental health and safety engineers do not always need a degree in engineering, they do need to understand principles related to engineering, as well as environmental science and occupational health and safety.

Many positions require considerable work experience in the health and safety field. Some require a master's degree or an equivalent combination of education and work experience. Specific requirements vary by employer and industry.


Relevant degrees and knowledge areas

To work as an environmental health and safety engineer, you must:

  • have a bachelor's degree in engineering, environmental science, occupational health and safety, or a similar field
  • have strong analytical skills
  • be able to communicate clearly with a variety of audiences



Certifications

Certifications are examinations that test or enhance your knowledge, experience, or skills in an occupation or profession.

While there is no standard certification requirement for environmental health and safety engineers in Minnesota, there are a variety of organizations that offer certification in related disciplines. Some employers may have a preference for candidates who are certified in a particular area.

View certifications related to this career.


Licensing

Click on occupations listed below to find State of Minnesota licensing information.

Engineer-In-Training


Day in the Life Interview


Meet Dale Livingston, an environmental health and safety specialist for the University of Minnesota, Morris campus.

Please share your name, title, and a description of your job responsibilities.
My name is Dale Livingston. I am the environmental health and safety specialist for the University of Minnesota campus in Morris, Minnesota. I am responsible for making sure our campus is in compliance with environmental and workplace safety regulations. One of the areas I'm responsible for is prepping, handling, and shipping hazardous materials. I also conduct indoor air quality and asbestos investigations as well as ergonomic evaluations and industrial hygiene analysis on campus.

I am part of a larger department within the University of Minnesota system as a whole, but here at Morris I am a one-man operation. In places where there are more environmental health and safety staff employed, each person might specialize in air quality or hazardous materials or something else. Since I'm the only one in this position at the Morris campus, I am more of a generalist.

Morris is a campus really focused on being environmentally-friendly. We get half of our energy from a wind (turbine) generator and are trying to develop a second for the campus.

What is a typical day like at your job?
I don't know that there is a typical day! It really varies. Yesterday, for instance, I was loading a truck with recycled electronic waste in the morning, spent half the day in meetings, and the rest of the time in the office performing record-keeping duties. I try to manage my schedule as best as I can, so on days that I pack waste, I try and spend half the day on that, and then spend the second half of the day on other things. When I'm in the office, I'm working on report writing, having meetings with campus staff, or having telephone/Internet meetings with people in environmental health and safety (EHS) at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities.

In terms of hours, I work 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Sometimes, I need to work on the weekends.

How did you get started working in this field?
I always had an interest in the environment and wanted to use my degree in my work. I started doing private environmental consulting in the early 1990s after I graduated from college, conducting pre-purchase property assessments. I would perform leaking underground storage tank investigations. Then, while I was between jobs, a temporary position opened up at the University of Minnesota doing industrial hygiene surveys, asbestos building surveys, and similar things. While I was in that temporary position, a permanent position opened up at the campus in Morris. I applied and got the job.

Read more from Dale's day in the life interview.


Skills & Knowledge


Skills

People in this career typically need to use the following skills:

  • Project Management skills to manage environmental reviews, inspections, and internal environmental safety initiatives.
  • Product Development/Technology Design skills to develop and design solutions for environmental health and safety issues, like manufacturing changes, facility modifications, or new building construction.
  • Technical skills to apply knowledge of hazardous emissions, air quality, and related regulations to restructure internal processes in order to ensure compliance.


Knowledge

People in this career typically need knowledge in the following areas:

  • Legal knowledge of regulations, policies, standards (for example, EPA standards) to help a company stay in compliance.
  • Science knowledge of health hazards derived from exposure to toxic substances, and for the ability to interpret air quality testing results.
  • Mechanical knowledge of equipment, machinery layout, and production processes to monitor and enhance environmental safety in a manufacturing plant.


Tools & Technology

Environmental health and safety engineers often use basic office software and might also work with specialized compliance computer programs.

Though they sometimes manage technicians who do most of the hands-on testing and observation, environmental health and safety engineers may use any number of devices for measuring and monitoring working conditions. Some examples include sound level meters, Geiger counters, and air sampling devices. The specific tools and technologies used vary widely depending on industry and specific job duties.


Jobs


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Job Title Examples

Environmental, Health, and Safety (EHS) Manager; Safety and Health Consultant; Safety, Health, and Environment Vice President; Corporate Health, Safety, and Occupational Toxicology Director; Corporate Health, Safety, and Security Manager; Environmental Affairs, Safety, and Security Manager; Environmental Health and Safety Director; Environmental Safety Specialist; Health and Safety Manager


Industries

Environmental health and safety engineers are primarily employed in the Manufacturing industry.


More Resources



Related career cluster


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