2018 Job Outlook

2018 Job Outlook

S+H readers weigh in on job satisfaction, opportunities

April 22, 2018
2018 Job Outlook
Photo: Missouri Department of Transportation

Optimism remains strong and steady in the occupational safety and health field, according to the results of the 2018 Safety+Health Job Outlook survey.

Ninety-one percent of the safety and health professionals who responded consider their jobs “very stable” or “relatively stable,” matching last year’s total. That number was 88 in 2016 and 87 in 2015.

Additionally, half of the respondents think their jobs are “very stable” for the second straight year.

For the fifth consecutive year, the number of organizations projecting to add safety and health employees in the next year is around 26 percent. Also, for the fifth consecutive year, more than 20 percent of organizations had increased their staffing levels in the previous six months.

Retirements continuing

Survey participants pointed to another aspect that could keep job opportunities flowing: the continuing retirement of baby boomers in both safety positions and other jobs.

“I think it is very favorable,” one respondent said about the job market. “More and more companies are seeing the value of having a safety professional on staff. In addition, a large percentage of current safety professionals are nearing retirement age, which will open up additional positions.”

Another said, “The market is very strong and should remain that way as our population ages and new personnel come into the workforce with little or no safety training.”

The survey results support those opinions, as 26 percent of respondents said they are considering retirement within the next five years – an increase from 21 percent in 2017 and 23 percent in 2016.

The number of respondents age 60 or older increased to 21 percent from 17 percent in 2017, and the number of those 50 to 59 years old dropped slightly from 36 percent to 33 percent, suggesting that perhaps some past respondents have moved into the older age bracket.

Other notable results

In a potential indicator of growing diversity in the safety field, the number of female respondents reached 30 percent for the first time in recent history. It was 25 percent in 2017.

Other notable results:

  • Three-quarters of participants said that their employer does not have a succession plan in place for their department. That’s up from 59 percent in 2017.
  • Nearly two-thirds of respondents (62 percent) believe employers will look internally to fill open positions, even if those employees don’t have the necessary experience.
  • If an organization is willing to take six to 18 months to train a replacement, a majority of respondents (55 percent) said the employee would be ready to take their place. That’s a decrease from 65 percent in 2017.

About the respondents

Your outlook

Respondent comments

2018 Job Outlook
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About the respondents



2018  Job Outlook
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Your outlook

2018  Job Outlook
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How would you describe the current job market for safety and health professionals?

Responses to this question covered the spectrum, from “vibrant,” “robust” and “encouraging” to “bleak” and “mediocre and worsening.” A sampling is below, or read all comments.


I think it is growing. More employers are really looking at safety as a big issue.

I see job postings from the same companies, same job descriptions, at multiple locations, which leads me to believe that companies are playing catch-up for their safety program implementation.

I believe the job market is increasing in opportunity as the demand for compliance and sustainability increases. Employers are actively looking at cost-saving approaches like the Workers’ Compensation Index to improve financial performance.

Smoking hot.

Very promising!

Wide-open, endless opportunities.

Pretty good. I receive more emails and calls for job offers.

I am consistently being contacted for open EHS positions with companies.

I feel that it is very good. I am contacted on a regular basis by recruiters.

Many opportunities, especially if willing to relocate.

Very healthy, getting more lucrative all the time.

It appears to be good based on the number of inquiries I get and the number of ads I see posted.

Currently, it seems positions are opening up for professionals with higher education and experience.


In my market area, jobs are few and far between.

Difficult, especially for people over 50 years old and more than 6 months without work.

Been looking for a full-time position for 2 years.

Very tight in specialized fields. Being in a slow economic region and in an aging industry, it is very tough to find folks that are qualified or willing to learn a wide array of topics.

Weak, hiring at the low end, looking for someone who will keep the company out of a non-compliance situation. Just enough to get by.

Limited for those with less than 10 years’ experience, and also limited for those who do not live in close proximity to major cities.

No market for seasoned professionals.

I have been looking for a new job, and there is not much out there right now.


I see plenty of job postings available, although it appears to me that employers are only looking for untrained (cheaper) staff to fill complex roles.

Lots of positions appear to be available, but the job requirements are monumental.

It seems the positions are still available, but they’re not paying as well as they did five years ago.

Jobs are out there if you’re willing to move. Entry-level positions continue to be a challenge for the newcomer.

Good for younger people and not good for those over 50.

Currently, there are many EH&S positions available; however, there are not many (applicants) with the experience level that employers are needing.

At the middle and lower levels, it is strong. At the upper levels, it is a challenge.

Stable for existing professionals, tough for new people to obtain positions.

There are a few opportunities out there, but are all entry-level or take a wealth of experience.

It seems like there are opportunities, but some may be filled from within before they are advertised.

Good for employers willing to pay higher wages, bad for employers trying to save a buck and pay H&S professionals low salaries.

Very good for those that are passionate about the profession. There are still too many folks with the “it’s a job” or “I am a contractual requirement” attitude.

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Respondents comment on the future of their profession

What can be done to encourage safety and health professionals to stay longer with their organizations?

Extensive support for safety and health from the highest levels of management was a popular suggestion. So were fair pay and a viable career path.

Safety and health professionals leave their jobs for two reasons: lack of support for the safety programs and opportunities for promotion. Providing these would cause safety professionals to remain within their organizations.

I think it has a lot to do with the safety culture within the company. Having executive/owner support and alignment will keep people long-term.

Upper-management participation. It doesn’t work if only the safety person is talking safety. It is hard to stay with a company as a safety manager when you are the only one pushing safety.

Better support from management to put things in place before an injury, not just afterward.

Having upper management better understand the role of the safety professional.

Upper-management engagement and a commitment to actually implementing the ideas, suggestions and rules.

Treat them like they matter. Owners and upper management need to take part in safety and not look at it as, “You’re here because I have to have you.”

Support from on top, a culture that says safety is not the enemy, a pay scale that reflects their value to the company.

S&H professionals must report to the highest level within building or organization, leadership team preferred. Without this commitment to safety, it is difficult to effect change at a lower level of authority.

Expand current responsibilities into other streams of the business. Safety professionals need a way to feel invested in the companies they work for.

Make safety a viable career, not just a side job on the way to a promotion to other departments. Give safety a seat at the leadership table and put power behind the position. Do not let other department goals override safety. Make everyone (worker to president) accountable for safety.

The realization that no matter how small, they are making a contribution to the cause.

The organization should be willing to encourage professional development, assist with membership dues in professional organizations and not fill positions from within with inexperienced, non-credentialed individuals.

Management must acknowledge that it doesn’t know more than the person it hired to manage the program. Don’t use senior safety positions as developmental jobs for (operations) people.

Communicate that safety behaviors and conditions don’t change overnight. They take time and perseverance.

Encourage them to mentor younger staff and allow younger staff to shadow them as they do their job. Mentoring retains experienced workers.

Offer fair-market wages for positions. Most companies only have one safety professional who wears many hats within the company. … Most manage the department even though they are only in a coordinator position that is a lower-paid position.

Pay them, or buy them lunch every once in a while. If people feel they are well taken care of, they will not go anywhere.

It’s always about the money.

Better pay, better advancement, better benefits and less micro-managing.

Flexible schedules, fair pay and a career path.

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Going forward, what skills will be most important for safety and health professionals to be hired and promoted?

Responses indicate that a successful safety pro is a well-rounded individual who, in addition to knowledge and technical expertise, has strong communication and people skills at every level of an organization.

The most important attribute is a true passion for the safety of others, including a positive, enthusiastic personality.

Industry knowledge and excellent communication skills coupled with analytical abilities.

Safety and health professionals are asked to cover a wide range of areas. Having cross-training in multiple areas, including environmental compliance, will greatly help.

Adaptability, there will always be more than one hat to wear, know which hat you are this hour.

The ability to adapt to and thrive with the exponential growth of technology.

Attention to detail, critical thinking and interpersonal skills.

Backbone; being able to help determine the correct path and stick with it, even if it may cause a few very important people some heartburn.

Safety and health professionals need to be good teachers of various levels of personnel. Being patient is critical to getting through to people.

Psychological and sociological skills. The future of safety is behavior change. To change behaviors, you must get inside the workers’ heads.

Understanding which rules make a difference and being flexible when it doesn’t.

Safety professionals need to be able to connect what they do to the bottom line. They have to be able to show the benefits of a good safety record and how the company can market that record.

The ability to talk to anyone anywhere. Have the courage to talk to the people.

Creative problem solving. The easy solution is not always the most cost effective, and therefore, harder to sell to management. Creative and cost-effective solutions are the key.

Degrees, willingness to undergo ongoing training, ability to work with people with a wide variety of backgrounds and the ability to make safety important to everything in the organization, make it personal to all.

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What can be done to attract new people to the profession?

Respondents agree that the safety and health profession needs more visibility. Outreach to high schools and college students about the career path was an oft-repeated suggestion.

Knowledge of this field, the good pay and the interesting day-to-day work would help get more people interested.

Get the word out about what we really do, and the real value we bring.

Increase visibility. Most safety professionals I know entered the profession from another field.

Continue to promote the profession to both high school and college students through presentations at local schools and career fairs.

Mentoring by current professionals. Start at the high school level with outreach programs.

Education starting in high school, even in shop classes. People in the trades make good safety supervisors.

Find that person who is interested, and train and mentor them. But, that requires dedication from upper management.

I think it needs to better appeal to people who have that “helper” mentality. There are many caregiver professions out there. This could be one that appeals to those caregivers who are more technically/technologically inclined.

Change the perception (and reality) that we’re safety cops. We should be seen as a vital part of the organization instead of an add-on after a fatality or inspection.

Money and stability make jobs attractive.

Educational institutions, especially trade schools, to offer more courses and S&H as a career path.

Quality internships and good education opportunities can help attract new people.

Reach out to women and minorities.

Make it easier to obtain certification without degrees.

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