To ensure safe working environments, occupational health and safety professionals inspect workplaces. Occupational health and safety specialists lead these investigations, are responsible for informing management of violations, and can suspend the business from operating if necessary. Occupational health and safety technicians work with occupational health and safety specialists, and complete tasks such as recording the findings of an inspection.
Occupational safety and health professionals are employed in both the public and private sectors to ensure the safety and productivity of working environments. They can be found in varied settings including offices, construction sites, mines and factories. Career options include becoming either an occupational safety and health 'technician' or 'specialist'. While most specialists are required to obtain at least a bachelor's degree in a relevant field, technicians generally are not.
|Occupational Safety and Health Specialist||Occupational Safety and Health Technician|
|Required Education||Bachelor's degree in occupational health, safety, or related field||High school diploma at minimum|
|Other Requirements||Occasionally, master's degree in health physics, industrial hygiene or related field||Occasionally, associate degree or certification|
|Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)*||4%||9%|
|Average Salary (2015)*||$71,790||$51,270|
Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Occupational Safety and Health Specialists
Occupational safety and health specialists carry out inspections of work environments and notify management of any violations. They have the obligation of issuing suspension orders to employers if the violations are not corrected in a timely manner. Occupational safety and health specialists provide recommended actions to rectify hazardous or potentially hazardous situations.
Designing work spaces, methods, controls and programs that help prevent injuries or illnesses and maintain good air quality is part of an occupational safety and health specialist's job. When patterns of illness, injury or absenteeism appear, occupational safety and health specialists perform investigations.
Educational training programs are taught by occupational safety and health specialists to show employees how to use and dispose of hazardous chemicals, safely operate equipment, handle emergency situations and perform other safety procedures. These professionals also collect samples of potentially harmful substances like dust and gas to test their toxicity levels.
Salary and Job Outlook
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS, www.bls.gov), the average yearly salary for occupational safety and health specialists as of May 2015 was $71,790. Those working in other pipeline transportation made the most, with an average annual wage of $101,590; whereas those working for state government made among the least, with an average yearly salary of $59,630. From 2014 to 2024, the BLS projected that employment of occupational health and safety specialists would increase by approximately 4%, slower than average across all occupations.
Occupational Safety and Health Technicians
Occupational safety and health technicians work alongside occupational safety and health specialists to ensure the safety of work environments. These professionals do most of the record-keeping and take notes regarding the working conditions of equipment, how materials are stored, air quality and other data. They report back with their notes to occupational safety and health specialists for further evaluation.
Safety equipment is supplied and maintained by occupational health and safety technicians. They confirm that employees are properly using the equipment and verify that employers have proper licensing and permits to perform work tasks.
Salary and Job Outlook
As of May 2015, the BLS estimated that the average annual wage for occupational safety and health technicians was $51,270. Those working in general scientific research and development services earned the most, with an average yearly salary of $77,860; while those working in iron and steel mills and ferroalloy manufacturing made among the least, with average yearly pay of $37,530. From 2014 to 2024, the BLS projected that employment of occupational health and safety technicians would increase by about 9%, faster than average for all occupations.
Requirements for Occupational Safety and Health Jobs
Education Requirements for Occupational Safety and Health Specialists
Most occupational safety and health specialists are required to have a bachelor's degree in occupational health, safety or a related field, according to the BLS. Positions in certain industries may require a master's degree in health physics, industrial health or similar subjects. Coursework for a bachelor's degree in occupational safety and health includes classes such as:
- Industrial accident standards
- Fire prevention
- Hazardous materials
- Safety management
Practical work experience is also required for occupational safety and health specialists. While pursuing their college degree, students can obtain internships to gain on-the-job training and experience.
Education Requirements for Technicians
An associate's degree or a certificate is often substantial enough to gain an entry-level position as an occupational safety and health technician. Some technicians acquire their positions through work experience, training and advancement. Additional education to learn applicable laws and safety procedures is required for all occupational safety and health employees. Classes to become an aspiring occupational safety and health technician may include:
- Safety management and training
- Incident investigation
- Industrial protection
- Industrial sanitation
Certification is voluntary for occupational safety and health specialists and technicians, though recommended by many employers. The Board of Certified Safety Professionals offers various certifications for occupational health and safety professionals to prove proficiency in their particular fields. Certification indicates that the individual meets certain educational and skill criteria, has passed scrupulous testing and meets the approval of top safety professionals.
Occupational health and safety specialists are required to have a bachelor's degree and prior work experience, which they can acquire by completing an internship. Occupational health and safety technicians need a certificate or associate's degree. Professional certification for specialists and technicians is optional, but it may appeal to employers.