By Tara Gibson - November 24, 2020
One of the tools used by careers advice websites to provide young people with advice about different occupations is “Day in the Life of” articles. These articles generally explain what it like to work in a specific occupation, what the responsibilities are, and what the day-to-day routine consists of.
What is noticeable among the many hundreds of occupations, is that careers advice about jobs in the manufacturing industry is thin on the ground. Around twelve million workers are employed in the manufacturing industry – more than three times as many as in education services – yet finding advice about careers in manufacturing is much harder than finding advice about becoming a teacher.
Even when careers advice websites dedicate space to jobs in the manufacturing industry, they tend to focus on “shop-floor” occupations rather than provide advice about opportunities elsewhere in the industry. While it is important to have a hands-on understanding of shop-floor occupations to advance to other positions in the industry, what these other positions are is never mentioned.
If finding advice about jobs in manufacturing is difficult, finding advice about careers in health and safety is even harder. Possibly the best guide is on the Bureau of Labor Statistics website, where details of how to become an occupational health and safety specialist are found in the healthcare section – not somewhere prospective candidates might always think of looking.
Once the relevant information is located, the likelihood is that anybody looking to become a health and safety specialist in manufacturing will require a bachelor's degree and have to undergo on the job training. In return, they will receive a salary of around $90,000 per year – which is more than most other jobs requiring entrants educated to such a high level.
Despite occupational health and safety careers offering relatively high rewards, there are thousands of vacancies for specialists, engineers, and technicians across LinkedIn and Indeed. According to the safety management pages of the Eastern Kentucky University website, the reason for there being so many vacancies is that the number of people entering the profession is not keeping up with the number of people leaving the profession due to retirement or other factors.
In the manufacturing industry, the shortage of health and safety personnel could reach critical point in the next few years according to Deloitte's 2018 study into the skills gap in manufacturing. Deloitte forecasted 2.4 million vacancies will remain unfilled by 2028 – with businesses finding it three times harder to fill managerial positions. So why is it so hard to find manufacturing safety managers? Let's have a look a day in the life of a manufacturing safety manger to find out more.
Because of the different sizes of manufacturing businesses, the different nature of what they produce, and the different stages of automation they have reached, there is no “one-size-fits-all” day in the life of a manufacturing safety manager. Furthermore, while in some manufacturing businesses, a safety manager may have sole responsibility for health and safety throughout the factory or manufacturing plant, in others he or she may be supported by teams of technicians.
Therefore, we have compiled the following schedule of events by integrating our own knowledge of manufacturing safety manager roles and responsibilities with the few schedules that can be found on the Internet – ignoring those in which managers have meeting lasting fifteen minutes or less. When it comes to health and safety in the manufacturing industry, it is not a topic that can be discussed in any great detail within a fifteen-minute window.
Despite being on call throughout the night, one of the first things a manufacturing safety manager will do is check for emails or text messages advising them of an issue.
On arrival at the factory, our manufacturing safety manager (who we shall call David for the sake of brevity) will often conduct a brief tour to sense out any unreported issues.
The first formal meeting of the day will likely involve other senior personnel and/or members of the safety team to discuss any safety issues that occurred during the previous 24 hours.
After the meeting, David will conduct a more thorough tour of the premises to identify if short-cuts are being taken and ensure machinery guards and sensors are working properly.
Once the second tour is concluded, David returns to his office to catch up on emails, review any new safety guidelines or legislation, and keep up-to-date with the latest safety technology news.
After lunch, you will find David either preparing or conducting training sessions. The sessions could relate to topics such as the correct procedures for reporting a fault or emergency preparedness.
Thereafter, there will likely be a second formal meeting of the day with senior personnel and/or members of the safety team to discuss safety and regulatory compliance issues.
Before leaving the factory, David will conduct a further tour of the premises to identify any issues that have manifested during the day. Typically, this will be a more informal tour.
While the above schedule may seem quite relaxed for a highly skilled manufacturing safety manager, it is not always plain sailing. Any fault in a machine or any misuse of a machine can result in a devastating injury. Furthermore, areas of safety outside David's control (i.e. severe weather, bomb threats, etc.) can also impact the safety of the employees he is paid to protect.
Therefore, a manufacturing safety manager can be a stressful occupation if measures are not put in place to prepare for the times when things do not go to plan. Consequently, if you are in a position of responsibility for safety in a factory or manufacturing plant - or considering entering the industry as a health and safety specialist - always be planning ahead to mitigate potential safety issues.
Tara is a Marketing Coordinator on the Rave Mobile Safety marketing team. She loves writing about all things K-12, State & Local, Higher Ed, Corporate, and Healthcare, and manages the Rave social media channels. When she's not working, she's taking care of her smiley, shoe eating, Instagram-famous fur baby, Enzo!
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