What Is the Main Role of a Safety Professional?

Environmental certifications play an essential role in preparing professionals to fulfill the functions of their jobs, functions that include implementation of best practices, compliance with governmental regulations, evaluations of clean and compromised sites, and (generally speaking) doing things that help protect the planet. 

Those things vary significantly from certification to certification, and the duties of, say, a Mold Awareness Specialist will vary significantly from those of an Associate Environmental Professional. Details determine the duties you will do, and in this article, we will discuss the key role of a safety professional, as well as responsibilities for certified professional in safety. 

Safety professional reviewing a safety checklist

Role #1: Identify and assess potential risks, hazards, and control measures for a given process or operation 

Different industries have different risk profiles, no matter if they’re in the environmental field or not. Financial firms face market volatility, retailers face competitive pressures, and logistics firms face supply-chain shocks. Any company with a potential environmental impact (e.g., manufacturing, mining, agriculture, heavy industry) must understand and manage risks such as regulatory compliance, hazardous-waste disposal, and personnel safety. NREPSM certifications such as Certified Environmental and Safety Compliance Officer®®, Certified Environmental and Safety Financial Officer, and Certified Environmental and Safety Logistics Officer certify the skills needed to make such assessments. 

Role #2: Conduct ongoing review of operations and processes to identify potential hazards, risks and control measures that should be implemented to reduce these risks 

Another axiom with which safety professionals must contend is that risks do not remain static. They are constantly evolving, and safety professionals must change with them. This is especially true in environmental contexts, which may involve the discovery of deep-seated environmental damages and changing legal requirements. Additionally, safety professionals must consider all costs involved in implementing risk-management measures. 

Role #3: Identify and document any hazards, risks, and controls in a way that is consistent with established procedures and practices 

Part of defraying risk and ensuring environmental, employee, and consumer safety involves following set procedures. Environmental safety professionals in particular must adhere to generally agreed upon procedures and practices. Not only are these standards effective, but they are also often required by law in many cases. 

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Role #4: Set up and supervise temporary work areas 

Many businesses, nonprofits, and governmental organizations work in permanent areas, and in these situations, ensuring safe practices proves somewhat simpler. Employees can learn safety protocols as part of their daily routine and implementing them becomes second nature. However, sometimes certain tasks may require the establishment of temporary work areas or job sites (e.g., mining, construction). In these cases, certified professionals in safety must ensure that these temporary areas are erected and maintain compliance with established safety guidelines. 

Role #5: Oversee the safe handling, storage & disposal of any dangerous materials 

A great number of industrial and manufacturing processes require the handling, processing, and storage of hazardous materials. Safety professionals must ensure that these materials do not negatively impact the surrounding environment, workers, or general population. (For an illustration of what happens when standards are ignored or non-existent, consider the yondai kōgai-byō of Japan.) 

Role #6: Enhance workplace safety and employee productivity by migrating from manual to digital safety procedures 

While it seems unlikely that computers will ever be able to truly think for us, they operate with an ironclad consistency when given applicable rule sets to follow. This is why they can prove invaluable when it comes to safety standards. Professionals in safety have an obligation to remove human error as a factor in practices and procedures whenever possible, and one of the ways they can do so is through the implementation of digital safety management systems. 

Role #7: Ensure that all company employees meet all OSHA requirements

Prior to the implementation of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration in 1971, the United States saw a precipitous increase in injuries and negatively impacted worker health as economic activity sharply increased after World War 2. OSHA has mandated safety-focused guidelines such as: 

  • Chemical identification and hazard warnings 
  • The maintenance of injury records 
  • Various medical guides when certain thresholds are met 
  • Free personal protective equipment 

Safety compliance officers should ensure that employees know about these guidelines and that they perform their own tasks in such a way that conforms to OSHA standards. Doing so ensures ongoing wellbeing for workers, the business itself, and the greater community.  

Role #8: Provide OSHA training if necessary 

While it’s easy to think that employees should tacitly know how to work with OSHA standards, they may inadvertently be ignorant about the very guidelines designed to protect them. Incorrect usage of PPE, safety harnesses, or respirators. A fear of reporting hazardous and unsafe work conditions. Lack of knowledge about emergency action plans, commercial driving limits, heavy equipment operation, and silica exposure. In such instances, a safety professional must take steps to provide appropriate education.  

Role #9: Abide by health, safety, and environmental policies

It’s not just employees who sometimes fail to follow required rules. Management, board members, and stakeholders may ignore best practices relating to environmental safeguards, worker wellbeing, or ideal industrial practices. Although some attribute such failures to malice, they’re often due to simple oversight. Certified professionals in safety must remain vigilant, pointing out to decision makers the importance of adhering to accepted standards. Because of the bottom-line focus of various stakeholders, it’s worth reminding them that regulatory violations can result in steep fines, negatively impacting net profits. 

Role #10: Investigate accidents or injuries that occur in the workplace and report them to the appropriate authorities 

According to governmental regulations, employees have a right to report workplace accidents and injuries, as well as different types of hazardous conditions. Safety professionals ought to thoroughly investigate any claims regarding past or potential harm and remediate unsafe conditions. Not only is such action legally required and beneficial for the business or organization, it’s also ethically appropriate. 

If you’re considering becoming certified as a safety professional, consider the various certifications offered by NREPSM. For more than three decades, we have established the guidelines and set the standard for environmental and safety certification on a global scale. Additionally, we are officially recognized by United States Department of Energy and Environmental Protection Agency. Contact us today to learn more.