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Occupational Health And Safety Specialists Career

Career Description

Occupational Health and Safety Specialists review, evaluate, and analyze work environments and design programs and procedures to control, eliminate, and prevent disease or injury caused by chemical, physical, and biological agents or ergonomic factors. May conduct inspections and enforce adherence to laws and regulations governing the health and safety of individuals.

Common Work Tasks

  • Analyze work environments and design programs to control, eliminate, and prevent disease or injury
  • Look for chemical, physical, radiological, and biological hazards, and work to make more equipment ergonomic—designed to promote proper body positioning, increase worker comfort, and decrease fatigue
  • Conduct inspections and inform an organization’s management of areas not in compliance with State and Federal laws or employer policies
  • Advise management on the cost and effectiveness of safety and health programs
  • Provide training on new regulations and policies or on how to recognize hazards
  • Develop methods to predict hazards from historical data and other information sources
  • Evaluate current equipment, products,  facilities, or processes and those planned for use in the future
  • Uncover patterns in injury data that show that many injuries are caused by a specific type of system failure, human error, or weakness in procedures
  • Evaluate the probability and severity of accidents and identify where controls need to be implemented to reduce or eliminate risk
  • Conduct safety training for management,  supervisors, and workers

Other Job Titles

Occupational Health and Safety Specialists are also known by other titles, including:

  • Safety and Health Professionals
  • Occupational Health and Safety Inspectors
  • Loss Prevention Specialists
  • Occupational Health and Safety Technicians

Education,  Training, and Experience

Education and Training
 
Some employers require occupational health and safety specialists to have a bachelor’s degree in occupational health, safety, or a related field, such as engineering,  biology, or chemistry. For some positions, a master’s degree in industrial hygiene or a related subject is required. There also are associate degree and 1-year certificate programs, which primarily are intended for technicians.

Certification and Licensure
     
Although voluntary, many employers encourage certification. Certification is available through several organizations. The Board of Certified Safety Professionals offers the Certified Safety Professional (CSP) credential. The American Board of Industrial Hygiene offers the Certified Industrial Hygienist (CIH)  credential. Also, the Council on Certification of Health, Environmental, and Safety Technologists certifies people as Occupational Health and Safety Technologists (OHST), who may be called Certified Loss Control Specialists (CLCS), Construction Health and Safety Technicians (CHST), and Safety Trained Supervisors (STS). The Indoor Air Quality Association awards the Certified Indoor Environmentalist (CIE) credential. The Board of Certification in Professional Ergonomics offers the Certified Professional Ergonomist (CPE) and the Certified Ergonomics Associate (CEA) credentials. The American Board of Health Physicists awards the Certified Health Physicist (CHP) credential.

Experience
         
In general,  people who want to enter this occupation should be responsible and like detailed work. Occupational health and safety specialists and technicians also should be able to communicate well. Recommended high school courses include English, mathematics, chemistry, biology, and physics. Experience as an occupational health and safety professional is also a prerequisite for many positions.

Salary

The median annual salary for an Occupational Health and Safety Specialist is $60,000. The top 10 percent earn more than $90,000,  and the lowest 10 percent earn less than $36,000.  Median earnings in the industries employing the largest number of occupational health and safety specialists are:

  • Local Government - $55,190
  • Federal Executive Branch - $70,690
  • State Government - $52,170
  • General Medical and Surgical Hospitals - $63,290
  • Management, Scientific, and Technical Consulting Services  - $65,420

Job Outlook

  • 2006-2016 Employment growth:  8%
  • Number of new jobs created 2006-2016: 3,700
  • Employment 2006 : 45,000
  • Employment 2016:  49,000
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