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.
- 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
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.
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.
- American Industrial Hygiene Association
- U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Safety and Health Administration, Office of Communication
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Center for Disease Control and Prevention, National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health
- Board of Certified Safety Professionals
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.