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Occupational Health and Safety Specialist and Technician Career and Job Information

Occupational Health and Safety Technician Career and Job Highlights

  • Almost half were employed by safety regulation-enforcing government agencies at all levels.
  • Job growth will depend on the shift towards smaller government and the desire for safer work environments.
  • Specialists are required to have bachelor’s degree by most employers in a safety-related field.

Occupational Health and Safety Technician career Information and Job Description

Protecting people, the environment, and equipment from unnecessary harm is the primary objective of occupational health and safety specialists and technicians. They are also called ergonomists, industrial hygienists, occupational health and safety inspectors, and environmental protection officers. They assist institutions in creating safer and cleaner processes.

Work environment data collection for later review by occupational health and safety specialists is the primary task of occupational health and safety technicians. They also work to develop and analyze worker safety programs under the direction of specialists.

Occupational health and safety specialists analyze the data collected by technicians and develop programs in order to protect the work and equipment from harm. They consider several factors, including biohazards, ergonomic concerns (dealing with equipment design and user-comfort), chemical agents, and physical hazards. They inspect organizations for compliance with safety regulations and enforce the company policies and relevant laws.

Occupational health and safety specialists and technicians perform different roles based on the institutions and health risks with which they work. The first step usually is to look for dangerous situations and processes. They find hazards by using empirical data, personal experience, and reported information. Dangers associated with equipment, products, work environment, and processes used are all recorded and assessed. The potential harms and known causes of the dangers are evaluated and predictions are made with regards to potential for injury and harm and the implications of those injuries on the company and staff. Specialists and technicians then work to create solutions to the danger areas and implement programs to fix them. They educate everyone in the company from the management down about safety concerns and rules. Following the implementation of their plan, they follow up with the institution to see how the dangers are being resolved, and may create a new plan if the hazards are not being properly taken care of.

Work equipment—including fork lifts, work scaffolding, and glass barriers—and is examined by occupational health and safety specialists do ensure that it complies with proper safety protocol. They ensure that workers required to wear protective eyewear, hardhats, and masks are doing so, and ensure that hazardous matter stored on site is stored properly. They examine ventilation systems to ensure that workers are not exposed to harmful combinations of gases or poisonous fumes. To perform these detailed observations, specialists may interview workers about their working practices and work environment. They also inspect tools and systems with hopes to work toward worker safety.

Using testing equipment, specialists and technicians determine levels of dangerous materials like radiation levels and noxious gases. They collect samples of air, dust, and liquids and test them later to get an accurate measurement.

Following a work site accident, occupational health and safety specialists study and identify why the accident might have occurred and come up with changes that can be made to fix the problem. They may also supervise the injured worker’s rehabilitation to ensure the worker makes a smooth transition back to work.

Occupational health and safety specialists and technicians often communicate with companies’ management teams and scientists in order to develop, implement, and improve safety programs.

Specialists often prepare detailed reports that include test results, observations, determined safety concerns, and plans to resolve those concerns. Employee manuals, safety procedures, and agency or company policies may be developed by specialists who become experts in a certain industry.

Occupational Health and Safety Technician Training and Job Qualifications

The Federal government and many other employers require candidates to hold a bachelor’s degree in some safety-related field. Additional prerequisites include a written examination and work experience in the occupational health and safety field.

Occupational health and safety specialists and technicians receive hands-on training, classroom instruction, or both with regards to relevant laws and examination practices. Responsibility, interpersonal communication skills, and paying close attention to detail are essential characteristics for any potential occupational health and safety professional. High school class work that will be helpful includes the life sciences, physics, and English.

Both the American Board of Industrial Hygiene (ABIH) and the Board of Certified Safety Professionals (BCSP) offer some kind of certification to professionals in this industry. Professionals may earn the title of Certified Safety Professional (CSP) from the BCSP; the titles Certified Industrial Hygienist (CIH) and Certified Associate Industrial Hygienist (CAIH) are conferred by the ABIH. The title Occupational Health and Safety Technologists (OHST) is awarded by the Council on Certification of Health, Environmental, and Safety Technologists, which organization is a combination of the BCSP and ABIH. CAIH, CSP, and CIH conditions are more rigorous than those to earn the OHST title. Certification is voluntary but encouraged by a lot of organizations and agencies. Education, experience, and passage of an examination are required to become certified initially; one must take continuing education courses in order to maintain certification.

Occupational health and safety specialists and technicians employed by the Federal government can advance with satisfactory performance to a predetermined level just below management. Competition for management positions is competitive as fewer openings are available. Employment opportunities and advancement potential in other levels of government and with private organizations often reflect those in the Federal government.

Advanced degrees related to the safety industry make a candidate more competitive for management positions as well as opening doors to become a researcher or college or university instructor.

Occupational Health and Safety Technician Job and Employment Opportunities

Job growth through 2012 will depend on the shift towards smaller government and the desire for safer work environments, but should be about the same as the average for all types of occupations. Companies that focus on self-enforcement of policies and regulations will employ a number of occupational health and safety professionals; employment with other organizations in the private sector will be determined by the relative growth of those industries and relevant safety concerns. As current professionals leave the industry, replacements will be needed to fill their positions.

Government agencies employ nearly 40 percent of all occupational health and safety professionals; thus, this industry is affected less by fluctuations in the national economy than are other industries.

Historical Earnings Information

The highest 10 percent were paid more than $71,450 in 2002 while the middle half earned between $58,230 and $34,280. The lowest-paid 10 percent earned less than $25,080. The median for all specialists and technicians was $46,010.