What Occupational Health and Safety Specialists Do
Industrial hygienists (a type of specialist) examine the workplace for health hazards, such as exposure to lead, asbestos, noise, pesticides, or communicable diseases.
Occupational health and safety specialists analyze many types of work environments and work procedures. Specialists inspect workplaces for adherence to regulations on safety, health, and the environment. They also design programs to prevent disease or injury to workers and damage to the environment.
Occupational health and safety specialists typically do the following:
- Identify chemical, physical, radiological, and biological hazards in the workplace
- Collect samples of potentially toxic materials for analysis
- Inspect and evaluate workplace environments, equipment, and practices to ensure that safety standards and government regulations are being followed
- Recommend measures to help protect workers from potentially hazardous work conditions
- Investigate accidents to identify their causes and to determine how they might be prevented in the future
Occupational health and safety specialists, also known as occupational safety and health inspectors, examine lighting, equipment, ventilation, and other conditions that could affect employee health, safety, comfort, and performance. Workers usually are more alert and productive in environments that have specific levels of lighting or temperature.
Specialists seek to increase worker productivity by reducing absenteeism and equipment downtime. They also seek to save money by lowering insurance premiums and workers’ compensation payments and by preventing government fines. Some specialists 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.
Specialists work to prevent harm not only to workers but also to property, the environment, and the public by inspecting workplaces for chemical, radiological, and biological hazards. Specialists who work for governments conduct safety inspections and can impose fines.
Occupational health and safety specialists work with engineers and physicians to control or fix potentially hazardous conditions or equipment. They also work closely with occupational health and safety technicians to collect and analyze data in the workplace. For more information, see the profile on occupational health and safety technicians.
The tasks of occupational health and safety specialists vary by industry, workplace, and types of hazards affecting employees.
Environmental protection officers evaluate and coordinate storing and handling hazardous waste, cleaning up contaminated soil or water, and other activities that affect the environment.
Ergonomists consider the design of industrial, office, and other equipment to maximize workers' comfort, safety, and productivity.
Health physicists work in locations that use radiation and radioactive material, helping to protect people and the environment from hazardous radiation exposure.
Industrial hygienists identify workplace health hazards, such as lead, asbestos, noise, pesticides, and communicable diseases.
Loss prevention specialists work for insurance companies. They inspect the facilities that are insured and suggest improvements to prevent losses.