Joe started as a carpenter’s helper when he was 18 years old, learning the craft as he went along. Now in his mid-50s, he looks back with pride on his “one-man shop” remodeling company. Just as he was preparing for one last big push before retirement, the bottom fell out of the market.

In the past three years, Joe has had to dip into his retirement account to offset the drop in business. Not only has it gotten tougher to find profitable work, but his body is telling him those 35-plus years of physical labor is enough. He’s still healthy, though, with a sharp mind and natural communication skills.

Fresh Options

So, what now? Apply for a job at a lumberyard? Work for another contractor? Take his experience to The Home Depot? Or, perhaps Joe could become a safety professional. Depending on the type of safety work he wants to pursue, the additional credentials Joe needs range from as little as 30 hours of training for an OSHA card to as much as two to four years for a degree in safety. It’s not necessary to get a degree, but it does open more opportunities.

There are online programs that would allow Joe to go to school while working in less-technical safety positions. Graduates of degree programs can get an Associate Safety Professional (ASP) or Graduate Safety Practitioner (GSP) designation. Descriptions of these and other options such as the Construction Health and Safety Technician (CHST) certification can be found at bcsp.org/safety-certifications.

Joe isn’t looking to get into management — he loves working in the field — and has decades of experience waiting to be leveraged in a new direction.

Benefits of Experience

The residential construction industry doesn’t typically utilize safety professionals, so would Joe be qualified to work in other areas? Absolutely. Remodeling experience migrates well to commercial and industrial construction as well as disaster restoration. These jobs do require travel. One of the most important skills is the ability to communicate because the role of a safety professional on a jobsite is like a policeman’s — to enforce the rules.

Joe’s construction experience gives him an advantage over young graduates with no experience, who tend to get hung up on regulations. He can use his personal experience to look at how best to avoid injury, rather than just to catch someone violating the rules. An officious, scolding manner can alienate people, making it harder to focus on the desired outcome of safe behavior. Joe’s many years of customer sales and service experience give him the ability to provide corrective guidance without having it appear as criticism. The measure of success will be when workers approach him to ask the best way to do something.

A job in safety is a good option when Joe is ready to scale back his workload because much safety staffing work is part-time.

—Rick Provost has more than 20 years experience helping to build the country’s largest design/build franchise network. He is now a principal in SMI Safety, a safety consulting and staffing business. rickp@smisafety.com