What does an occupational health and safety specialist do?
Occupational health and safety specialists help prevent harm to workers, property, the environment, and the general public. They analyze work environments and design programs to control, eliminate, and prevent disease or injury.
What might an occupational health and safety specialist do in a workday?
Occupational health and safety specialists:
- look for chemical, physical, radiological, and biological hazards.
- design safe work spaces, inspect machines, or test air quality.
- aim to increase worker productivity by reducing absenteeism and equipment downtime.
- conduct safety inspections and impose fines.
- develop methods to predict hazards.
- evaluate current equipment, products, facilities, or processes and those planned for future use.
- evaluate the probability and severity of accidents and identify where controls need to be implemented to reduce or eliminate risk.
- help investigate accidents, studying causes, and recommending remedial action.
Occupational health and safety technicians:
- might help design safe work spaces, inspect machines, or test air quality.
- focus on testing air, water, machines, and other elements of the work environment.
- measure hazards, such as noise or radiation.
- prepare and calibrate scientific equipment.
- examine and test machinery and equipment, such as lifting devices, machine guards, or scaffolding.
- check that personal protective equipment, such as masks, respirators, hard hats, or protective eyewear, is being used according to regulations.
- check that hazardous materials are stored correctly.
- test and identify work areas for potential accident and health hazards, such as toxic vapors, mold, mildew, and explosive gas-air mixtures.
How much does an occupational health and safety specialist earn?
- $40,000 - $80,000
How do I become an occupational health and safety specialist?
Students interested in becoming occupational health and safety specialists should take the most challenging high school courses available in English, mathematics, chemistry, biology, and physics.
An individual who wants to become an occupational health and safety specialist should have a minimum of 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, health physics or a related subject is required.
Occupational health and safety specialists may be certified by the American Board of Health Physicists, the American Indoor Air Quality Council, the American Board of Industrial Hygiene, and the Board of Certified Safety Professionals. Requirements for credentials vary; most require specific education and experience in order to be eligible to sit for the certification exam. Once certified, specialists are usually required to complete periodic continuing education for recertification.
Where else can I learn about becoming an occupational health and safety specialist?
American Society of Safety Engineers
Colonial Virginia Chapter / P.O. Box 3001 / Richmond, VA 23228
American Industrial Hygiene Association
2700 Prosperity Avenue, Suite 250 / Fairfax, VA 22031
tel: (703) 849-8888 / web: www.aiha.org
American Society for Safety Engineers
1800 E. Oakton Street / Des Plaines, IL 60018
tel: (847) 699-2929 / web: www.asse.org