Why Every Safety Professional Needs Engineering Principles

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Young safety professional woman wearing a hard hat and goggles at her jobsite

At Safety 2018, Marjory Anderson, CSP, safety engineer at Architect at the Capitol, and Thomas Kramer, P.E., CSP, managing principal of LJB Inc., will be presenting on how to Apply Engineering Principles to Become a Better Safety Professional. This session will teach attendees the benefits of utilizing both a safety and engineering perspective to address workplace risks and hazards.

In any profession, it can be valuable to put yourself in someone else’s shoes and try to understand their point of view. This is certainly true in the OSH field for safety professionals and engineers to view safety from each other’s perspectives to determine the best solutions. By educating themselves on principles such as the nature and properties of materials, thermodynamics and others, safety professionals can begin to understand an engineer’s perspective and apply that knowledge to address safety issues.

"There’s so much interplay between engineering and what safety professionals do on an everyday basis," says Kramer. “Educating each other on our roles and perspectives will help the two professional communities work together.”

While safety professionals and engineers have similar responsibilities for ensuring the safety of people, property and the environment, a barrier exists in terms of the two groups understanding each other’s work.

“Safety professionals and engineers don’t always speak the same language, so we don’t always understand what each other is talking about,” says Anderson. “We need to get together and learn to talk to each other in order to solve problems.”

Having insights into the principles that engineers use on a daily basis provides safety professionals with guidance on the types of questions engineers will ask and the information they will need to address workplace risks and hazards. Safety professionals can then be ready to answer those questions and provide the necessary information to help streamline the risk management process.

“The more engineering insight that you have as a safety professional, the better your risk assessments and protective factors are going to be,” explains Anderson. “While safety professionals may not be making engineering decisions themselves, understanding the mindset of an engineer will help them know what questions to ask and what information engineers need to make informed safety decisions.”

Furthermore, safety professionals should take the opportunity to not only educate themselves on engineering principles, but also offer their knowledge to the engineering community on the risks and hazards faced by those in occupational safety and health.

“Understanding that a knowledge gap exists, safety professionals can reach out to engineers to help them understand the risks and hazards they are dealing with,” explains Kramer. “Once engineers develop a better understanding of workplace hazards and safety professionals better understand engineering principles, the two can work together to develop the best solutions for addressing risk.”

Learn more about Anderson and Kramer’s course here.

Marjory Anderson, CSP, is safety engineer at Architect of the Capitol where she has overseen the fall protection efforts for facilities controlled by the Architect of the Capitol across Capitol Hill. Her current responsibilities include policy and program management, as well as design review for various demolition, construction and renovation projects on Capitol Hill. Anderson is chair of the Awards & Honors Committee for ASSE’s Council on Practices and Standards, and she has served on the ASSE Technical Publications Committee and as administrator of the Engineering Practice Specialty. She holds an M.S. in Safety Sciences and a B.S. in Management from Indiana University of Pennsylvania.

Thomas Kramer, P.E., CSP, is managing principal at LJB Inc. where he specializes in the assessment and design of fall protection systems. He is Vice Chair of the ANSI/ASSE Z359 Committee and chairs the subcommittees that develop standards for the Fall Protection Code (ANSI Z359.1) and horizontal lifelines (ANSI Z359.17). He holds an M.B.A. from Miami University, as well as an M.S. in Structural Engineering and a B.S. in Civil Engineering from the University of Cincinnati. He is a professional member of ASSE's Southwestern Ohio Chapter.

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