How to Get Experience Faster
Have you ever felt like you were learning things now that you should have known a long time ago? If you are anything like me, you definitely have. The field of safety is often a vast sea of knowledge and skills spanning many disciplines. It’s definitely enough to make your head spin trying to keep up with everything. Originally, that’s exactly what attracted me to the profession in the first place. But invariably it bites back once in a while by exposing something you should have known already.
But imagine if you and I were able to sit down and talk about the different challenges were facing at work. I could tell you all about the hazards at a steel mill and you could tell me all about the risks of high voltage power lines. After a brief visit both of us would be much better off professionally.
Now imagine taking that analogy and ramping it up to thousands of people having even more conversations. And every time a new person joins in the whole benefits from their experience. It’s like finding a shortcut to work on a road with a higher speed limit! This is the power of being involved and connected with like minds and other professionals.
Professional Association is Key
There are many professional associations but there are two that are incredibly useful for the safety professional. Those are the National Safety Council (NSC) and the American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE). According to their ‘About’ page at the NSC, they boast of a network over 50,000 members with over 20 different chapters nation wide.
“…With local Chapters, global networks and more than 50,000 members,
NSC is committed to helping keep people safe wherever they are.” -NSC
In addition, the ASSE is not far behind them with a membership over 37,000 people worldwide. According to their fact sheet on their website, they have 153 chapters, 39 sections and 74 student sections all in 80 different countries.
Both of these professional associations are immensely valuable based purely off the sheer numbers of professionals participating in it. But in addition to that, they also focus on fields you and I have worked in or will work in like: academics, construction, consulting, engineering, environment, ergonomics, fire protection, healthcare, industrial hygiene, manufacturing, mining, oil & gas, risk management, insurance, training & communications, transportation or utilities. They both also provide a frequent newsletter filled relevant and interesting information, workshops, classes, meetings, and many other member benefits.
In addition, these groups also publish their own books for safety professionals. The ASSE publishes “The Safety Professionals Handbook” and provide journals, updates, and blogs and other resources to keep us up to date on new standards or other changes in the industry.
The Other Side of the Safety Coin: Industrial Hygiene
In the field of safety, there are more hazards and risks than just what’s visible to the human eye. Industrial Hygiene deals with worker health and safety by detecting hazards in the environment. Hazards that are not easily detected with just our five senses. They look for dust particles in the breathing air, sound level and frequency and gasses in the air. Or they look at how much light is in an area. Too much of anything can be dangerous, even fatal.
Well, there is an association for that! By being a member of the American Industrial Hygiene Association it will give you a wealth of resources and information that will assist the safety professional. For starters, according to their ‘About‘ page, a little more than half of their members are “Certified industrial hygienists (CIHs), and many hold other professional designations.” And that number is about 10,000 members who have that designation. That could mean their total membership may be hovering around 16,000 to 20,000 people. What a wealth of experience right there!
The AIHA’s goals is best stated by their associations guarantee:
We are greater together than we ever could be alone. By joining these fine associations we learn and progress professionally and personally much faster. We also have an opportunity to give back and contribute, and honestly, that is what being a safety professional is all about.