Waheed Lawal’s interest in safety is out of this world. Literally.
As an EHS Engineer for Blue Origin USA, he works to ensure the safety of innovative rockets like the New Shepard, developed for space tourism. Blue Origin also has a mission to build next-generation space habitats and return to the surface of the moon.
Space is the latest stop in a career path that has already taken Lawal around the globe, from Qatar to Seattle, in industries from oil and gas to construction to manufacturing and now aerospace. He previously worked on such notable projects as the modernization of the Microsoft campus in Redmond, Washington, and Facebook’s Block 16 offices in Bellevue, Washington.
Wherever he is, safety is always at the heart of his work.
“My continuous interest in working as a safety professional is driven by making a positive impact on the community, aligning with my personal values and career aspirations,” Lawal said. “Throughout my journey, I have learned the importance of following my heart, seeking guidance from mentors, and continuously learning to add value to myself.”
Lawal was inspired to enter the safety profession first by watching his father, a retired chief environmental officer, and later by the tragic story of the Piper Alpha oil platform disaster.
After earning a degree in geosciences and working in that field, Lawal learned of the Piper Alpha during an orientation class on oil and gas. A series of explosions on July 6, 1988, sank the platform in the North Sea, killing a total of 167 people in what remains the world’s deadliest offshore oil disaster.
The story moved something inside Lawal. He wanted to keep those types of tragedies from happening. It rekindled the desire from his youth to pursue a safety path like his father.
“I felt called to become a safety professional,” he said. “This circumstance inspired my new way of thinking about what safety means, which led to the discovery of my new career that paralleled my childhood wish.”
Driven by his new motivation and guidance from mentors like Australian professor and safety professional Arnold Dix, Lawal has continually sought new ways to grow.
He added an associate degree in occupational safety and health technology plus a master’s in safety and health management. He achieved BCSP’s Construction Health and Safety Technician (CHST) and Associate Safety Professional (ASP) credentials within two months of each other in 2019 and later attained the Certified Safety Professional (CSP) in 2022. Now he volunteers as a subject matter expert for BCSP, helping to craft questions for the ASP exam.
“I am a firm believer in the value of knowledge and embrace continuous learning as a lifelong pursuit,” he said.
An active member of the American Society of Safety Professionals, Lawal chaired the Nigeria chapter’s professional development conference this year. He is a mentor to young professionals, a speaker on safety issues, and a regular interview subject for news articles regarding safety challenges in Africa.
“I urge safety giants to support the younger generation by providing guidance and knowledge,” he said. “And I encourage younger safety professionals to remain humble, follow their passion, and never give up on their aspirations.”