The Scoop on Occupational Health and Safety Specialists

When you hear "Occupational Health and Safety Specialist" you probably though of OSHA - you were right to do so!

The care and maintenance of the workplace is the domain of these folks who keep us all form harm everyday. It's not so cut and dry like in other fields because the field is changing as rules and "standards or living and working" change. Imagine, maybe 10 years ago it was ok to stack inventory in the hallway. Now, that would be considered a work hazard because someone might trip and fall over it or someone in a wheelchair wouldn't be able to get through. Constant observation is the life of a Health and Safety Specialist.

What in the World Does an Occupational Health and Safety Specialist Do?

Occupational Health and Safety Specialists (or OHS Specialists) analyze workplaces for potential hazards to the employees there. Hazards range from biological to chemical to physical and each one has its own answer. In addition to inspecting workplaces an OHS Specialist also has the responsibility of chronicling the problems in the facility and advising management.

In working with the management of companies who are being inspected an OHS tech is also charged with coming up with ways to stem the problems that they see. In advising management (perhaps you) would have to advise management on the most cost-effective way to deal with the issues you have found. This is the heart of an OHS Specialists job. If you go to the President of a company and tell him it'll be an exorbitant amount of money to correct some problems then he might not correct them. However, if you go in with a plan and know how to get these problems fixed in a way that isn't super-expensive, then you've really done your job.

Because you're inspecting equipment, machinery, offices, and everything in between you also run into areas of the workplace that are handled by insurance companies. This field, called "Loss-Prevention Specialists" work for insurance companies who need to gauge how safe they are in the

What Kind of Training do I need (A.K.A. - Will I have to go to School?)

At the very least you are going to have to get your Bachelor's Degree in Health and Safety, or some kind of science. These degrees lend well to working in Occupational Health and Safety, but they are not the only route in. Sometimes, employers will hire you if you have a Bachelor's Degree at all and agree to be trained on the job. These requirements will vary from place to place so you just have to be on the lookout for the kinds of job requirements that employers list in their "want ads".

Even though no State requires a license of certificate to work as an Occupational Health and Safety Specialist there are ways to get national certification that will make you look more attractive to potential employers. Also, keep in mind that some employers will ONLY hire certified OHS Specialists.

The CSP (Certified Safety Professional) certificate is the most common of these certificates and it is administered by the Board of Certified Safety Professionals. There are also certifications for loss-prevention specialists, indoor air quality, ergonomics, and indoor environmentalists. Each one has its own test and its own prerequisites. Each certification also lends to its own specialty, so if you are certified in more than one area you become even more desirable as an employee.

How Do I get One of These Jobs Anyways?

About 40% of OHS Specialists work for the government. Whether that be city, local, county, state, or federal governments this is where a lot of the jobs are. Because each government has its own Health and Safety Department you would be wise to check with even city in a Metropolitan area to see if they are hiring.

Also, OHS Specialists work for insurance companies in evaluating risk. You could work for a hospital in making sure the hospital is compliant with Health and Safety Laws. You could work for a manufacturing company checking to see if the building space or factory is safe for the workers. There are tons of companies who need OHS Specialists to make sure they are ready for government inspections and to make sure their workers are safe.

Advancement in the field is simple with experience and more education. If you get a Master's Degree you can teach or do research instead of working a typical 9-5. Sometimes research suits retired or semi-retired workers who want something to do that is not what they had been doing for the past 30 years. If you stay with a company long enough you could easily get into management of other OHS Specialists or you might take a government job as a Director of Health and Safety for a city, county or state.

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Occupational Health and Safety Specialists Overview

Occupational Health and Safety Specialist Salary:$62,250
Job Prospects:B-
Education after high school:6 years
# Employed in US:53,250
% Who work Part Time:8%
Physical Difficulty:+
Intellectual Difficulty:+ +
Emotional Difficulty:+

The Pros of being an Occupational Health and Safety Specialist

  • You can train on the job or get your degree
  • You can work for SO many different people and in so many different places
  • You can get into research or management later in your career

The Cons of being an Occupational Health and Safety Specialist

  • You spend a lot of time on your feet
  • You may have to inspect dangerous places and come in contact with dangerous chemicals or machinery
  • If you work for the government you might be seen as a "narc" everywhere you go and that can't feel good

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