How to Become an Occupational Health and Safety Specialist or Technician
Specialists and technicians carry out and evaluate programs on workplace safety and health.
Occupational health and safety specialists typically need a bachelor’s degree in occupational health and safety or in a related scientific or technical field. Occupational health and safety technicians typically enter the occupation through one of two paths: on-the-job training or postsecondary education, such as an associate’s degree or certificate.
Occupational health and safety specialists typically need a bachelor’s degree in occupational health and safety or a related scientific or technical 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. In addition to science courses, typical courses include ergonomics, writing and communications, occupational safety management, and accident prevention.
Employers typically require technicians to have at least a high school diploma. High school students interested in this occupation should complete courses in English, mathematics, chemistry, biology, and physics.
Some employers prefer to hire technicians who have earned an associate’s degree or certificate from a community college or vocational school. These programs typically take 2 years or less. They include courses in respiratory protection, hazard communication, and material-handling and storage procedures.
Ability to use technology. Occupational health and safety specialists and technicians must be able to use advanced technology. They often work with complex testing equipment.
Communication skills. Occupational health and safety specialists and technicians must be able to communicate safety instructions and concerns to employees and managers. They frequently prepare written reports and prepare and deliver safety training to other workers.
Detail oriented. Occupational health and safety specialists and technicians need to understand and follow safety standards and complex government regulations.
Physical stamina. Occupational health and safety specialists and technicians must be able to stand for long periods and be able to travel regularly. Some work in environments that can be uncomfortable, such as tunnels or mines.
Problem-solving skills. Occupational health and safety specialists and technicians must be able to solve problems in order to design and implement workplace processes and procedures that help protect workers from hazardous conditions.
Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations
Although certification is voluntary, many employers encourage it. Certification is available through several organizations, depending on the field in which the specialists work. Specialists must have graduated from an accredited educational program and have work experience to be eligible to take most certification exams. To keep their certification, specialists usually are required to complete periodic continuing education.
Occupational safety and health specialists and technicians can earn professional certifications including the following:
- The Board of Certified Safety Professionals offers the following certifications:
- Certified Safety Professional (CSP) certification
- Associate Safety Professional (ASP)
- Occupational Health and Safety Technologist (OHST)
- Construction Health and Safety Technician (CHST)
- The American Board of Industrial Hygiene awards a certification known as a Certified Industrial Hygienist (CIH)
Occupational health and safety technicians usually receive on-the-job training. They learn about specific laws and inspection procedures, and learn to conduct tests and recognize hazards. The length of training varies with the employee’s level of experience, education, and industry in which he or she works.
Some technicians enter the occupation through a combination of related work experience and training. They may take on health and safety tasks at the company where they are employed. For example, an employee may volunteer to complete annual workstation inspections for an office in which he or she already works.