Human Factors Engineer
Make products easier to use by studying human behavior.
Identifying the safety features of some systems requires little more than a brief attention span and an observant eye. When a child places a bucket of paint on one end of the teeter-totter and prepares to jump onto the other end, it’s not hard to tell where the weakness in the plan is. But major systems, such as vast utility networks or those in place for the Space Shuttle, require more depth and expertise.
A System Safety Engineer evaluates systems, specifically targeting safety features (or the lack thereof). As a System Safety Engineer, you consider all components of the system, such as transportation, maintenance requirements and procedures, and how humans interact with it, with the goal of stopping accidents before they occur. For this reason, your job as a System Safety Engineer commonly takes place at the planning stages of the project.
Before the system is implemented, you review engineering and Contractor blueprints, schematics, or designs. You compare the design to others, read reports, attend informational meetings about the project, and evaluate the prototype. With your knowledge about similar systems, you are often able to identify potential problems, make recommendations, and advise management.
Of course, even with the best planning, the system sometimes doesn’t react as expected. So when a safety issue appears, you learn from the mistake, work with the team to find a solution, and record your findings for other System Safety Engineers to use in the future.