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Occupational Health and Safety Specialists

Occupational health and safety specialists prevent harm to workers, the general public, property and the environment. They implement and evaluate safety programs. They perform inspections and inform a company's management about areas that do not comply with Federal and state laws or employer policies. They are also known as occupational health and safety inspectors and safety and health professionals.

Their responsibilities vary by workplace, industry and the types of hazards that affect workers. Some specialties include, environmental protection officers, health physicists and industrial hygienists. In addition, some occupational health and safety specialists are self-employed.

Safety and health professionals assess the probability and severity of accidents and determine where controls need to be implemented to reduce or eliminate risk. They also monitor the results of new safety procedures and programs.

Safety and health professionals also advise managers regarding the cost and effectiveness of safety and health programs. Some of these specialists provide training regarding new policies and regulations and how to recognize hazards. Occupational health and safety specialists also investigate illnesses and injuries and determine the causes and recommend corrective actions.

Occupational health and safety specialists strive to increase worker productivity, reduce absenteeism and equipment downtime. Their strategies also save money by lowering insurance premiums and workers' compensation payments and by preventing government fines. In addition, some occupational health and safety inspectors work for government agencies and perform safety inspections and impose fines.

Loss prevention specialists work for insurance companies and inspect the facilities insured by the company and suggest improvements and assist in implementing them.

Sample job titles include safety specialist, health and safety manager, corporate safety director, safety consultant, risk control consultant and environmental health and safety manager.

Responsibilities

  • Advise managers about safety performance
  • Offer suggestions to correct existing safety hazards and to avoid creating hazards
  • Evaluate current products, equipment, processes and facilities and those planned for use in the future
  • Prepare documents used in legal proceedings and testify in court
  • Test air quality
  • Help design safe work spaces
  • Make equipment more ergonomic
  • Search for physical, chemical, biological and radiological hazards
  • Conduct safety training sessions
  • Develop and maintain hygiene programs including continuous atmosphere monitoring, noise surveys, asbestos management plans and ventilation surveys

Job Characteristics

Occupational health and safety specialists work in a variety of settings such as mines and factories. They may be exposed to hazardous conditions faced by industrial workers. Most of these specialists work 40 hours per week and some specialists may have to work irregular hours. Some of these specialists frequently travel.

Employment Outlook

The Bureau of Labor Statistics has projected an eleven percent employment growth for the 2008 to 2018 timeframe which is about as fast as average for all occupations.

In 2008, the median annual earnings for occupational health and safety specialists was $62,250. The highest paid 10 percent earned more than $93,620. Regarding the sectors that employ the largest amount of occupational and safety specialists, the federal executive branch provides the highest salaries followed by general medical and surgical hospitals.

Education, Certification, and Licensing

Most of these jobs require a bachelor's degree in occupational health, safety or a related field such as chemistry, engineering or biology. Some of these jobs require a master's degree in industrial hygiene, health physics or a related subject.

Work experience is very important for this occupation, thus students should consider selecting an education program that provides internships. Some beneficial high school courses are mathematics, English, chemistry, physics and biology.

Every specialist is provided training in the applicable laws or inspection procedures by some combination of classroom learning and on-the-job training. Getting a credential is voluntary, however, many employers prefer their occupational health and safety specialists obtain a credential. The requirements for credentials vary, however, special education and experience is required for taking most certification exams.

Resources

Major Employers

The primary employers are manufacturing companies, scientific and technical consulting services, hospitals; federal, state and local government agencies; support activity for mining, administrative and support services, and educational services.

Schools for Occupational Health And Safety Specialists are listed in the Browse Schools Section.

Occupational Health and Safety Specialists Skills

Below are the skills needed to be occupational health and safety specialists according to their importance on the scale of 1 to 5 (1 being lowest and 5 being highest) and competency level on a scale of 1 to 7 (1 being lowest and 7 being highest).

   
Skill NameImportanceCompetence
Active Listening43.88
Critical Thinking44
Complex Problem Solving43.75
Speaking43.88
Judgment and Decision Making3.884

Occupational Health and Safety Specialists Abilities

Below are the abilities needed to be occupational health and safety specialists according to their importance on the scale of 1 to 5 (1 being lowest and 5 being highest) and competency level on a scale of 1 to 7 (1 being lowest and 7 being highest).

   
Ability NameImportanceCompetence
Problem Sensitivity4.124.62
Oral Comprehension44.12
Deductive Reasoning44
Inductive Reasoning44
Written Comprehension3.884

Occupational Health and Safety Specialists Knowledge

Below are the knowledge areas needed to be occupational health and safety specialists according to their importance on the scale of 1 to 5 (1 being lowest and 5 being highest) and competency level on a scale of 1 to 7 (1 being lowest and 7 being highest).

   
Knowledge AreaImportanceCompetence
English Language4.164.64
Law and Government44.09
Public Safety and Security3.944.42
Education and Training3.945.55
Customer and Personal Service3.734.97

Occupational Health and Safety Specialists Work activities

Below are the work activities involved in being occupational health and safety specialists according to their importance on the scale of 1 to 5 (1 being lowest and 5 being highest) and competency level on a scale of 1 to 7 (1 being lowest and 5 being highest).

   
Work ActivityImportanceCompetence
Communicating with Supervisors, Peers, or Subordinates4.565.56
Evaluating Information to Determine Compliance with Standards4.524.94
Getting Information4.395.18
Making Decisions and Solving Problems4.364.94
Training and Teaching Others4.224.66

Occupational Health and Safety Specialists Work styles

Below are the work styles involved in being occupational health and safety specialists according to their importance on the scale of 1 to 5 (1 being lowest and 5 being highest).

   
Work StyleImportance
Integrity4.67
Analytical Thinking4.42
Dependability4.39
Attention to Detail4.39
Initiative4.18

Metro Areas Sorted by Total Employment for
Occupational Health and Safety Specialists

Listed below are the 10 largest metro areas based on the total number of people employed in Occupational Health and Safety Specialists jobs , as of 2017

   
Metro AreaTotal EmploymentAnnual Mean Salary
Houston-The Woodlands-Sugar Land4,370 $81,230
Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington2,270 $73,480
Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim2,130 $85,430
San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward1,350 $93,860
Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue1,120 $84,160
Denver-Aurora-Lakewood1,020 $90,150
Columbus970 $75,600
Phoenix-Mesa-Scottsdale830 $70,370
Detroit-Warren-Dearborn820 $81,430
San Antonio-New Braunfels810 $66,930

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Employment
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Total employment and salary for professions similar to occupational health specialists

Source : 2017 Occupational Employment Statistics and 2016-26 Employment Projections, Bureau of Labor Statistics, BLS.gov; O*NET® 22.1 Database, O*NET OnLine, National Center for O*NET Development, Employment & Training Administration, U.S. Department of Labor, onetonline.org

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We have some additional detailed pages at the state level for Occupational Health and Safety Specialists.

Numbers in parentheses are counts of relevant campus-based schools in the state; online schools may also be available.