Occupational Health and Safety Specialists and Technicians
About 2 out of 5 specialists worked in Federal, State, and
local government agencies that enforce rules on safety, health,
and the environment.
Many employers, including the Federal Government, require
a bachelorís degree in occupational health, safety, or a related
field for some specialist positions.
Projected average employment growth reflects a balance of
continuing public demand for a safe and healthy work environment
against the desire for smaller government and fewer regulations.
Nature of the Work
Occupational health and safety specialists and technicians, also
known as safety and health practitioners or occupational
health and safety inspectors, help prevent harm to workers,
property, the environment, and the general public. They promote
occupational health and safety within organizations in many ways,
such as by advising management on how to increase worker productivity
through raising morale and reducing absenteeism, turnover, and
equipment downtime while securing savings on insurance premiums,
workersí compensation benefits, and litigation expenses. (Industrial
engineers, including health and safety, have similar goals. See
the section on engineers elsewhere
in the Handbook.)
Occupational health and safety specialists analyze work
environments and design programs to control, eliminate, and prevent
disease or injury caused by chemical, physical, radiological,
and biological agents or ergonomic factors that involve the impact
of equipment design on a workerís comfort or fatigue. They may
conduct inspections and inform the management of a business which
areas may not be in compliance with State and Federal laws or
employer policies, in order to gain their support for addressing
these areas. They advise management on the cost and effectiveness
of safety and health programs.
Occupational health and safety technicians collect data
on work environments for analysis by occupational health and safety
specialists. Usually working under the supervision of specialists,
they help implement and evaluate programs designed to limit risks
The specific responsibilities of occupational health and safety
specialists and technicians vary by industry, workplace, and types
of hazards affecting employees. In most settings, they initially
focus on identifying hazardous conditions and practices. Sometimes
they develop methods to predict hazards from experience, historical
data, workplace analysis, and other information sources. Then
they identify potential hazards in systems, equipment, products,
facilities, or processes planned for use in the future. For example,
they might uncover patterns in injury data that implicate a specific
cause such as system failure, human error, incomplete or faulty
decision making, or a weakness in existing policies or practices.
After reviewing the causes or effects of hazards, they evaluate
the probability and severity of accidents or exposures to hazardous
materials that may result. Then they identify where controls need
to be implemented to reduce or eliminate hazards and advise if
a new program or practice is required. As necessary, they conduct
training sessions for management, supervisors, and workers on
health and safety practices and regulations to promote an understanding
of a new or existing process. After implementation, they may monitor
and evaluate the programís progress, making additional suggestions
To ensure the machinery and equipment meet appropriate safety
regulations, occupational health and safety specialists and technicians
may examine and test machinery and equipment, such as lifting
devices, machine guards, or scaffolding. They may check that personal
protective equipment, such as masks, respirators, protective eyewear,
or hardhats, is being used in workplaces according to regulations.
They also check that hazardous materials are stored correctly.
They test and identify work areas for potential accident and health
hazards, such as toxic vapors, mold, mildew, and explosive gas-air
mixtures, and help implement appropriate control measures, such
as adjustments to ventilation systems. Their survey of the workplace
might involve talking with workers and observing their work, as
well as inspecting elements in their work environment, such as
lighting, tools, and equipment.
To measure and control hazardous substances, such as the noise
or radiation levels, occupational health and safety specialists
and technicians prepare and calibrate scientific equipment. They
must properly collect and handle samples of dust, gases, vapors,
and other potentially toxic materials to ensure personal safety
and accurate test results.
If an injury or illness occurs, occupational health and safety
specialists and technicians help investigate unsafe working conditions,
study possible causes, and recommend remedial action. Some occupational
health and safety specialists and technicians assist with the
rehabilitation of workers after accidents and injuries, and make
sure they return to work successfully.
Frequent communication with management may be necessary to report
on the status of occupational health and safety programs. Consultation
with engineers or physicians also may be required.
Occupational health and safety specialists and technicians prepare
reports including accident reports, Occupational Safety and Health
Administration record-keeping forms, observations, analysis of
contaminants, and recommendations for control and correction of
hazards. They may prepare documents to be used in legal proceedings
and give testimony in court proceedings. Those who develop expertise
in certain areas may develop occupational health and safety systems,
including policies, procedures, and manuals.
Specialists and technicians that concentrate in particular areas
include environmental protection officers, ergonomists, health
physicists, industrial hygienists, and mine examiners. Environmental
protection officers evaluate and coordinate programs that impact
the environment, such as the storage and handling of hazardous
waste or monitoring the cleanup of contaminated soil or water.
Ergonomists help ensure that the work environment allows employees
to maximize their comfort, safety, and productivity. Health physicists
help protect people and the environment from hazardous radiation
exposure by monitoring the manufacture, handling, and disposal
of radioactive material. Industrial hygienists examine the workplace
for health hazards, such as worker exposure to lead, asbestos,
pesticides, or communicable diseases. Mine examiners are technicians
who inspect mines for proper air flow and health hazards such
as the buildup of methane or other noxious gases.
Occupational health and safety specialists and technicians work
with many different people in a variety of environments. Their
jobs often involve considerable fieldwork, and some travel frequently.
Many occupational health and safety specialists and technicians
work long and often irregular hours.
Occupational health and safety specialists and technicians may
be exposed to many of the same physically strenuous conditions
and hazards as industrial employees, and the work may be performed
in unpleasant, stressful, and dangerous working conditions. They
may find themselves in an adversarial role if the management of
an organization disagrees with the recommendations for ensuring
a safe working environment.
Training, Other Qualifications, and Advancement
All occupational health and safety specialists and technicians
are trained in the applicable laws or inspection procedures through
some combination of classroom and on-the-job training. Awards
and degrees in programs related to occupational safety and health
include 1-year certificates, associate degrees, bachelorís degrees,
and graduate degrees. The Accreditation Board for Engineering
and Technology (ABET) accredits health physics, industrial hygiene,
and safety programs, in addition to engineering programs. Many
employers, including the Federal Government, require a bachelorís
degree in occupational health, safety, or a related field, such
as engineering, biology, or chemistry, for some specialist positions.
Many industrial hygiene programs result in a masterís degree.
Experience as an occupational health and safety professional is
also a prerequisite for many positions. Advancement to senior
specialist positions is likely to require an advanced degree and
substantial experience in several areas of practice.
In general, people who want to enter this occupation should be
responsible and like detailed work. Occupational health and safety
specialists and technicians should be able to communicate well.
Recommended high school courses include English, mathematics,
chemistry, biology, and physics.
Certification is available through the Board of Certified Safety
Professionals (BCSP) and the American Board of Industrial .Hygiene
(ABIH). The BCSP offers the Certified Safety Professional (CSP)
credential, while the ABIH offers the Certified Industrial Hygienist
(CIH) and Certified Associate Industrial Hygienist (CAIH) credentials.
Also, the Council on Certification of Health, Environmental, and
Safety Technologists, a joint effort between the BCSP and ABIH,
awards the Occupational Health and Safety Technologist (OHST)
and Construction Health and Safety Technician (CHST) credentials.
Requirements for the OHST and CHST credentials are less stringent
than those for the CSP, CIH, or CAIH credentials. Once education
and experience requirements have been met, certification may be
obtained through an examination. Continuing education is required
for recertification. Although voluntary, many employers encourage
Federal Government occupational health and safety specialists
and technicians whose job performance is satisfactory advance
through their career ladder to a specified full-performance level.
For positions above this level, usually supervisory positions,
advancement is competitive and based on agency needs and individual
merit. Advancement opportunities in State and local governments
and the private sector are often similar to those in the Federal
Research or related teaching positions at the college level require
Occupational health and safety specialists held about 40,000
jobs in 2004. While the majority of jobs were spread throughout
the private sector, about 2 out of 5 specialists worked for government
agencies. Local governments employed 19 percent, State governments
employed 18 percent, and the Federal Government employed 4 percent.
Other occupational health and safety specialists were employed
in manufacturing firms; private general medical and surgical hospitals;
management, scientific, and technical consulting services; management
of companies and enterprises; support activities for mining; research
and development in the physical, engineering, and life sciences;
private colleges, universities, and professional schools; and
electric power generation, transmission, and distribution. Some
Occupational health and safety technicians held about 12,000
jobs in 2004. Nearly 3 out of 10 technicians worked in government
agencies. Local governments employed 13 percent, State governments
employed 7 percent, and the Federal Government employed 9 percent.
Other occupational health and safety technicians were employed
in manufacturing firms; private general medical and surgical hospitals;
private colleges, universities, and professional schools; employment
services; management, scientific, and technical consulting services;
testing laboratories for architectural, engineering, and related
services; research and development in the physical, engineering,
and life sciences; and electric power generation, transmission,
Within the Federal Government, most jobs are as Occupational
Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) inspectors, who enforce
U.S. Department of Labor regulations that ensure adequate safety
principles, practices, and techniques are applied in workplaces.
Employers may be fined for violation of OSHA standards. Within
the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, occupational
health and safety specialists working for the National Institute
of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) provide private companies
with an avenue to evaluate the health and safety of their employees
without the risk of being fined. Most large government agencies
also employ occupational health and safety specialists and technicians
who work to protect agency employees.
Most private companies either employ their own occupational health
and safety personnel or contract with occupational health and
safety professionals to ensure the safety of their workers and
compliance with Federal, State, and local government agencies
that enforce rules on safety, health, and the environment.
Employment of occupational health and safety specialists and
technicians is expected to grow about as fast as average for all
occupations through 2014, reflecting a balance of continuing public
demand for a safe and healthy work environment against the desire
for smaller government and fewer regulations. Since the September
11, 2001 attacks, emergency preparedness has become a greater
focus for the public and private sectors, and for occupational
health and safety specialists and technicians. Additional job
openings will arise from the need to replace those who transfer
to other occupations, retire, or leave for other reasons. In private
industry, employment growth will reflect industry growth and the
continuing self-enforcement of government and company regulations
Employment of occupational health and safety specialists and
technicians in the private sector is somewhat affected by general
economic fluctuations. Federal, State, and local governments,
which employ about 2 out of 5 of all specialists and technicians,
provide considerable job security; workers are less likely to
be affected by changes in the economy.
Median annual earnings of occupational health and safety specialists
were $51,570 in May 2004. The middle 50 percent earned between
$39,580 and $65,370. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $30,590,
and the highest 10 percent earned more than $79,530. Median annual
earnings of occupational health and safety specialists in May
2004 were $48,710 in local government and $44,400 in State government.
Median annual earnings of occupational health and safety technicians
were $42,130 in May 2004. The middle 50 percent earned between
$29,900 and $56,640. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $22,860,
and the highest 10 percent earned more than $70,460.
Most occupational health and safety specialists and technicians
work in large private firms or for Federal, State, and local governments,
most of which generally offer more generous benefits than smaller
Occupational health and safety specialists and technicians help
to ensure that laws and regulations are obeyed. Others who enforce
laws and regulations include agricultural inspectors, construction
and building inspectors, correctional officers, financial examiners,
fire inspectors, police and detectives, and transportation inspectors.
Sources of Additional Information
Information about jobs in Federal, State, and local governments
and in private industry is available from State employment service
For information on a career as an industrial hygienist, including
a list of colleges and universities offering industrial hygiene
and related degrees, contact:
American Industrial Hygiene Association, 2700 Prosperity Ave.,
Suite 250, Fairfax, VA 22031. Internet: http://www.aiha.org/
For information on the Certified Industrial Hygienist or Certified
Associate Industrial Hygienist credential, contact:
American Board of Industrial Hygiene, 6015 West St. Joseph
Hwy., Suite 102, Lansing, MI 48917. Internet: http://www.abih.org/
For more information on professions in safety, a comprehensive
list of colleges and universities offering safety and related
degrees, and applications for scholarships, contact:
American Society of Safety Engineers, 1800 E Oakton St., Des
Plaines, IL 60018. Internet: http://www.asse.org/
For more information on professions in safety, a list of programs
in safety and related academic fields, and the Certified Safety
Professional credential, contact:
Board of Certified Safety Professionals, 208 Burwash Ave.,
Savoy, IL 61874. Internet: http://www.bcsp.org/
For information on the Occupational Health and Safety Technologist
and Construction Health and Safety Technician credentials, contact:
Council on Certification of Health, Environmental, and Safety
Technologists, 208 Burwash Ave., Savoy, IL 61874. Internet:
For information on a career as a health physicist, contact:
Health Physics Society, 1313 Dolley Madison Blvd., Suite 402,
McLean, VA 22101. Internet: http://www.hps.org/
For additional career information, contact:
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Center for Disease
Control and Prevention, National Institute of Occupational Safety
and Health, Hubert H. Humphrey Bldg., 200 Independence Ave.
SW., Room 715H, Washington, DC 20201. Internet: http://www.cdc.gov/niosh
U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Safety and Health Administration,
Office of Communication, 200 Constitution Ave. NW., Washington,
DC 20210. Internet: http://www.osha.gov/
Information on obtaining positions as occupational health and
safety specialists and technicians with the Federal Government
is available from the Office of Personnel Management through USAJOBS,
the Federal Governmentís official employment information system.
This resource for locating and applying for job opportunities
can be accessed through the Internet at http://www.usajobs.opm.gov/ or through an interactive
voice response telephone system at (703) 724-1850 or TDD (978)
461-8404. These numbers are not tollfree, and charges may result.
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational
Outlook Handbook, 2006-07 Edition