Occupational health and safety specialists collect data on and analyze many types of work environments and work procedures. Specialists inspect workplaces for adherence to regulations on safety, health, and the environment. 

Duties

Occupational health and safety specialists and technicians typically do the following:

  • Inspect, test, and evaluate workplace environments, equipment, and practices to ensure that they follow safety standards and government regulations
  • Prepare written reports on their findings
  • Design and implement workplace processes and procedures that help protect workers from hazardous work conditions
  • Evaluate programs on workplace health and safety
  • Educate employers and workers about workplace safety by preparing and  providing training programs
  • Demonstrate the correct use of safety equipment
  • Investigate incidents and accidents to identify what caused them and how they might be prevented

Occupational health and safety specialists examine the workplace for environmental or physical factors that could affect employee health, safety, comfort, and performance. They may examine factors such as lighting, equipment, materials, and ventilation. 

Some develop and conduct employee safety and training programs. These programs cover a range of topics, such as how to use safety equipment correctly and how to respond in an emergency.

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Work Environment

Occupational health and safety specialists held about 98,000 jobs in 2018. The largest employers of occupational health and safety specialists were as follows:

Government 22%
Manufacturing 16
Construction 10
Management, scientific, and technical consulting services                       6
Hospitals; state, local, and private 4

Occupational health and safety specialists and technicians work in a variety of settings, such as offices or factories. Their jobs often involve considerable fieldwork and travel. They may be exposed to strenuous, dangerous, or stressful conditions. They use gloves, helmets, respirators, and other personal protective and safety equipment to minimize the risk of illness and injury.

Work Schedules

Most occupational health and safety specialists and technicians work full time. Some may work weekends or irregular hours in emergencies.

Education and Training

Occupational health and safety specialists typically need a bachelor’s degree in occupational health and safety or in a related scientific or technical field. 

Education

Occupational health and safety specialists typically need a bachelor’s degree in occupational health and safety or a related scientific or technical field, such as engineering, biology, or chemistry. For some positions, a master’s degree in industrial hygiene, health physics, or a related subject is required. In addition to science courses, typical courses include ergonomics, writing and communications, occupational safety management, and accident prevention.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

Although certification is voluntary, many employers encourage it. Certification is available through several organizations, depending on the field in which the specialists work. Specialists must have graduated from an accredited educational program and have work experience to be eligible to take most certification exams. To keep their certification, specialists usually are required to complete periodic continuing education.

Occupational safety and health specialists and technicians can earn professional certifications including the following:

  • The Board of Certified Safety Professionals offers the following certifications:
    • Certified Safety Professional (CSP) certification
    • Associate Safety Professional (ASP)
    • Occupational Health and Safety Technologist (OHST)
    • Construction Health and Safety Technician (CHST)
  • The American Board of Industrial Hygiene awards a certification known as a Certified Industrial Hygienist (CIH)

Training

Occupational health and safety technicians usually receive on-the-job training. They learn about specific laws and inspection procedures, and learn to conduct tests and recognize hazards. The length of training varies with the employee’s level of experience, education, and industry in which he or she works.

Personality and Interests

Occupational health and safety specialists typically have an interest in the Thinking and Organizing interest areas, according to the Holland Code framework. The Thinking interest area indicates a focus on researching, investigating, and increasing the understanding of natural laws. The Organizing interest area indicates a focus on working with information and processes to keep things arranged in orderly systems.

If you are not sure whether you have a Thinking or Organizing interest which might fit with a career as a occupational health and safety specialist, you can take a career test to measure your interests.

Occupational health and safety specialists should also possess the following specific qualities:

Ability to use technology. Occupational health and safety specialists must be able to use advanced technology. They often work with complex testing equipment.

Communication skills. Occupational health and safety specialists must be able to communicate safety instructions and concerns to employees and managers. They need to be able to work with technicians to collect and test samples of possible hazards, such as dust or vapors, in the workplace.

Detail oriented. Occupational health and safety specialists must pay attention to details. They need to recognize and adhere to specific safety standards and government regulations.

Physical stamina. Occupational health and safety specialists must be able to stand for long periods and be able to travel regularly. Some specialists work in environments that can be uncomfortable, such as tunnels or mines.

Problem-solving skills. Occupational health and safety specialists must be able to solve problems. They need to be able to find solutions to unsafe working conditions and environmental concerns in the workplace.

Pay

The median annual wage for occupational health and safety specialists was $74,100 in May 2019. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $43,630, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $111,130.

In May 2019, the median annual wages for occupational health and safety specialists in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

Manufacturing $74,820
Hospitals; state, local, and private 74,600
Management, scientific, and technical consulting services                                 73,210
Government 72,870
Construction 72,840

Most occupational health and safety specialists and technicians work full time. Some may work weekends or irregular hours in emergencies.

Job Outlook

Employment of occupational health and safety specialists is projected to grow 6 percent from 2018 to 2028, about as fast as the average for all occupations. 

Specialists and technicians will be needed to work in a variety of industries and government agencies to ensure that employers are adhering to both existing and new regulations. In addition, specialists will be necessary because insurance costs and workers’ compensation costs have become a concern for many employers and insurance companies. An aging population is remaining in the workforce longer than past generations did, and older workers usually have a greater proportion of workers’ compensation claims.

Job Prospects

Applicants for jobs as occupational health and safety specialists or technicians with a background in the sciences, experience in more than one area of health and safety, or certification will have the best prospects.

For More Information

For more information about credentialing in industrial hygiene, visit

American Board of Industrial Hygiene

For more information about occupations in safety, a list of safety and related academic programs, and credentialing, visit

Board of Certified Safety Professionals

For more information about occupational health and safety, visit

U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH)

To find job openings for occupational health and safety positions in the federal government, visit

USAJOBS

CareerOneStop

For a career video on occupational health and safety specialists, visit

Occupational Health and Safety Specialists

 

FAQ

Where does this information come from?

The career information above is taken from the Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook. This excellent resource for occupational data is published by the U.S. Department of Labor every two years. Truity periodically updates our site with information from the BLS database.

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I think I have found an error or inaccurate information on this page. Who should I contact?

This information is taken directly from the Occupational Outlook Handbook published by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. Truity does not editorialize the information, including changing information that our readers believe is inaccurate, because we consider the BLS to be the authority on occupational information. However, if you would like to correct a typo or other technical error, you can reach us at help@truity.com.

I am not sure if this career is right for me. How can I decide?

There are many excellent tools available that will allow you to measure your interests, profile your personality, and match these traits with appropriate careers. On this site, you can take the Career Personality Profiler assessment, the Holland Code assessment, or the Photo Career Quiz.

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