Health and safety professionals play a vital role in protecting employees in the workplace. They use their knowledge and experience to control risks and make sure an organization meets the current safety standards.
Work typically involves helping to plan and implement new policies and procedures to raise or maintain safety standards, monitoring and reviewing these policies and procedures to ensure their effectiveness, and implementing new protective and preventive measures as required by law.
As a health and safety professional, you can work as part of an in-house team, as an independent consultant or for a larger consulting firm. The role could involve:
- preparing health and safety strategies
- developing policies
- carrying out risk assessments
- investigating accidents on work sites
- producing reports and recommendations to prevent future accidents
Many occupational health and safety technicians enter the occupation through two main paths. The most common path is through on-the-job training. However, others have a formal education, such as an associates, bachelors or master’s degree.
Here is a list of some universities who offer higher-level programs in occupational safety and health:
- Columbia Southern University
- Oakland University
- Murray State University
- University of Washington
- University of California- San Diego
Columbia Southern University and OSHAcademy are now official Learning Partners. CSU provides online associate, bachelor, master and doctoral degrees and certificate programs in fire science, occupational safety and health, organizational leadership, criminal justice, human resources and business administration. As a Learning Partner, OSHAcademy students who complete and purchase the 132-Hour OSH Professional program can receive a 10% tuition discount and exclusive scholarship opportunities.
Certification isn’t required to become an occupational health and safety professional; however, many employers encourage it. A professional credential reflects a positive career accomplishment. It can also help you achieve professional goals, job promotion and monetary reward. Though certification is optional, employers often use voluntary certifications as a way to objectively evaluate the talents of potential new hires.
Here is a look at some of the most well-known credentials:
Board of Certified Safety Professionals
The Board of Certified Safety Professionals (www.bcsp.com) offers certification at the technician level.
To apply for any certification within the BCSP, technicians must either have formal education in health and safety resulting in a degree or certificate, or at least three years of on-the-job experience in occupational health or safety. All applicants must pass a standardized health and safety exam. Those holding the CSP certification must also be re-certified every five years.
The Associate Safety Professional (ASP) designation is the start of the process toward achieving the CSP certification. It is a temporary designation awarded by BCSP. It means an individual has met the academic requirement and has passed the first of two examinations leading to the CSP credential.
A Graduate Safety Practitioner (GSP) is a designation available to safety degree graduates from degree programs which meet BCSP Qualified Academic Program (QAP) standards. The GSP program is an alternate path to the Certified Safety Professional (CSP) and does not replace other paths.
Those in the GSP path are not eligible for the Associate Safety Professional (ASP) designation since GSP’s receive a waiver of and do not sit for the Safety Fundamentals Examination. The ASP denotes someone who has taken a different path to the CSP certification by passing the Safety Fundamentals Examination. Please note that neither the ASP nor GSP are certifications.
Institute for Safety and Health Management
The Certified Safety and Health Manager (CSHM) certification is the only accredited certification that focuses entirely on the safety management process.
The ASHM designation recognizes safety and health management professionals who are ready to apply a broad range of safety and health management tools. The designation is a building block toward the Certified Safety and Health Manager (CSHM) certification.
The National Examination Board in Occupational Safety and Health (NEBOSH)
NEBOSH’s certificate level qualifications give a good foundation in health and safety for managers, supervisors and staff with health and safety among their day-to-day responsibilities. These qualifications are widely taken as a first step towards a career in health and safety. They are accepted by IOSH (the Institute of Occupational Safety and Health).
How to Gain Experience
The qualifications required to start a career in occupational safety and health can vary, depending on the type of role you desire. There are many qualifications that are appropriate, but most health and safety practitioners start with short introductory courses, such as OSHAcademy’s safety courses.
If you are not already employed, experimental learning through internships can also be valuable, especially for students in fields where there is not a substitute for hands-on experience in the actual work environment. Employees can also check within their own company for hands-on experience in the OSH field.
Here are some other ways to gain experience:
- Take on safety tasks within your current company.
- Join the safety committee within your current company.
- Perform a job shadow with an existing safety professional.