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What Is an MBA With an Emphasis in Safety?

It’s not just good luck that keeps you safe on the job. In fact, your good fortune is due to corporate America’s commitment to the highest global standards in workplace safety. To deliver on this commitment, employers need specifically trained professionals to develop and manage workplace safety programs.

According to the National Safety Council, a nonprofit NGO promoting health and safety in all aspects of American life, “Regarding training and education: We like to say that safety doesn’t happen by itself — it takes smart preparation, quality equipment and a well-trained workforce.”

What Is an MBA in Safety?

A Brief History of Workplace Safety

In the early 1970s, an average of 38 workers died every day in the United States, and 10 percent of the workforce experienced a work-related injury or illness each year. Manufacturing technology had grown rapidly, but the concept of safety standards and the technology and equipment needed to implement them lagged behind. Workers demanded regulations and enforcement to protect their health and safety, and the U.S. Department of Labor answered by founding the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

OSHA regulates employers’ efforts at “providing a safe and healthy workplace for their employees.” The objective is not only to reduce safety incidents, but also to continually reduce the related costs of preventing and handling incidents. OSHA developed regulations for a range of industries and established the early framework for what has evolved into today's complex system of corporate safety planning. Laws and regulations now encompass occupational safety and health, protection in the office or while traveling, and even the environment and air quality in the workplace. OSHA led the development of personal protection equipment, as well as the technologies and communication processes to make workers safer.

OSHA’s efforts have been successful: Workplace fatalities in the U.S. decreased by about 80 percent between 1913 and 2013, even as the workforce doubled.

Workplace Safety Is Evolving and You Can Contribute

Think of the century between 1913 and 2013 as the embryonic stage of workplace safety. The original mandate has evolved into an industry that is now in its infancy, and it needs your influence to mature to meet society’s changing needs.

Several key factors are driving the evolution of workplace safety: Consumer mobile technologies, including smartphones and tablets, are enabling important changes in safety communication. Employees have immediate access to comprehensive safety information and updates, and they can reach help instantly if an incident does occur.

Safety trainers have influenced generations of workers, and the attitude of today’s workforce reflects a higher degree of safety awareness. Instead of accepting corporate dictates and following rules, many employees now voluntarily make safer decisions and contribute to improvements in workplace procedures. They are taking responsibility for their subordinates and peers and correcting unsafe behaviors before they lead to injuries. They are educating one another on the proper use of equipment and procedures to minimize harm.

Education Will Create the Next Wave of Changes

Master of Business Administration degree programs with a focus on safety combine core management courses with information technology and specific instruction in safety. Graduates are prepared to advise companies on best practices in safety and lead teams in implementing and following safety protocols.

Southeastern Oklahoma State University’s online Master of Business Administration with an emphasis in Safety blends the core MBA business curriculum with two focused safety courses:

Advanced Safety Program Management involves analysis of safety program organization, supervision and management.

Legal Liability & Workers’ Compensation provides an advanced study of safety and health legal liability, regulatory compliance, ADA and workers’ compensation requirements.

This training enables current safety professionals the potential to advance to more senior-level positions, including safety and security manager. These managerial positions require an educational foundation in safety along with the fundamentals of business: behavioral management, research, data analysis and principle-centered leadership. With broader business acumen, these managers can collaborate with executives and IT personnel to determine workplace needs and develop and implement effective safety plans.

The safety specialization is needed across industries, in both the public and private sectors. Government agencies and large corporations are among the most common employers. Few careers offer as many potential places of employment, which contributes to stability and better resistance to economic volatility. Compensation is also strong. reports a median salary of $71,000 for safety specialists and $109,000 for safety directors in the United States.

For professionals who aspire to influence an industry that keeps people safe while earning a comfortable living, a safety-focused MBA is worth serious consideration.

Learn more about the SOSU online MBA with an emphasis in Safety program.


U.S. Department of Labor: Safety and Health Program Management Guidelines

Safety and Health Magazine: Safety Program Management

EHS Today: Corporate Safety Planning: Past, Present and Future Safety Specialist

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