Risk Engineering

Careers in risk engineering and safety management


The knowledge and skills you acquire by studying the course materials available on this website (and material elsewhere which is linked to) may lead you to an interesting career as a risk engineer. Safety management and risk engineering topics are generally not covered at an undergraduate level and there is significant demand for people who can demonstrate specialized knowledge in these areas. Careers in this area tend to be international, and experts may be called upon to work in different countries.

Study in this area can lead to the following professions and job titles:

  • Process safety engineer in the chemicals, petrochemicals, steelworks, offshore oil and gas and energy sectors. Process safety experts help optimize production, investigate and prevent losses during normal operations, undertake risk assessments of new units, assess the safety of scale-up operations on existing facilities, and review operating procedures to ensure a high level of safety. This line of work is most suitable if you have a background in chemical engineering.

  • Safety engineer in the nuclear industry: many job opportunities in nuclear power are safety-related, including design engineers (in particular for people with a background in mechanical or civil engineering), safety managers on nuclear power plants, and experience feedback specialists within the safety department of large nuclear operators.

  • Inspector in a regulatory organization or risk analyst in a certification authority or safety agency: regulatory organizations and national safety boards in the process industries, energy and transport need experts who are able to assess the safety cases prepared by operating firms, to inspect operations on site and challenge an operating firms’ risk management activities and can undertake investigations into the causes of accidents. Certification authorities such as EASA (civil aviation in the EU), EFSA (food safety in the EU), safety agencies such as ERA (European railways), Eurocontrol (air traffic management in Europe), the FAA (aviation in the USA), the FDA (food and medicine safety in the USA), ECHA (safety of chemicals in the EU), ASN (nuclear safety in France) employ safety specialists to supervise the implementation of safety regulations and improvement programmes within their scope.

  • Risk engineer in the insurance industry: a number of insurance firms underwrite risks for clients with hazardous industrial operations (insuring aspects such as lost production, damage to equipment, business continuity and liability). These firms need experts who are able to price risks correctly by assessing the operational risk management of clients and by analyzing historical data. Risk engineers also help industrial firms to improve the management of technological risks and prevent large losses. They may be called on to investigate large failures to determine the level of responsibility of different parties. Typical job titles include risk engineer, pricing analyst, data analyst, and actuarial analyst. Large insurance and reinsurance firms with activities in the underwriting of industrial risks include Marsh, Zurich Insurance Group, Swiss Re, FM Global, Liberty Mutual, AIG, Lloyds and Allianz.

The video below, by DW TV, illustrates the job of a risk engineer in the insurance industry.

  • Risk analyst in a safety consultancy: in some sectors such as the process industry and energy, the development of safety cases (documents prepared by industrial operators of hazardous establishments and presented to the regulator to demonstrate that risk is maintained at a satisfactory — or ALARP — level) is undertaken by expert risk analysts who work for safety consultancies. Job titles include safety consultant, loss control specialist, and asset integrity management expert. Consultant firms with this type of activity include DNV GL, URS, Chillworth, Aon, ABB, and Apsys. Work within these positions can be quite varied, ranging from HAZOP/HAZID studies to QRA through FERA and simulation of atmospheric dispersion of toxic releases. Consultancies typically include mentoring programmes for young graduates and are a good way to build up broad experience in different risk engineering activities.

  • Reliability engineer: in the process industries, the energy and transport sectors, reliability engineers track production losses and undertake root cause analyses, plan maintenance programmes, ensure that production quality standards are respected, and manage the lifecycle of equipment and assets. They hold special responsibility for safety instrumented systems (SIS) and risk-based inspection (RBI) programmes.

  • Design engineers: design agencies and large operators in the process, energy and transport sectors employ risk engineers to ensure that new plants, facilities and projects are designed to ensure a satisfactory level of safety during their entire lifecycle. Specific tasks can involve design and construction reviews, facility siting, fire prevention, learning from experience and accident analysis.

You may also be interested in the list of professional bodies related to the health and safety profession, institutions and associations that represent practitioners in the fields of risk management, safety and health.

Photo credits: tf28, CC BY-NC-SA licence
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