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 and developing policies, carrying out risk assessments, investigating accidents on work sites, and 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 degree. Technicians are trained in the specific laws or inspection procedures through a combination of classroom and on-the-job training. It is fairly common for technicians to enter the occupation through a combination of related work experience and training. These technicians typically take on health and safety tasks at the company where they are employed.
High school students interested in this occupation should complete courses in mathematics, chemistry, biology, and physics. Some technicians attend community college or vocational school and earn an associate’s degree or certificate. These programs typically include courses in respiratory protection, hazard communication, and material handling and storage procedures.
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
Certification isn’t required to become an occupational health and safety technician; 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.
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.
Here are some other common certifications for technicians:
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).
Experimental learning through internships can also be valuable, especially for students in technical fields where there isn’t 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.
If you are interested in becoming a safety professional, learn more at OSHAcademy.