Occupational Health and Safety Specialists and Technicians


Quick Facts: Occupational Health and Safety Specialists and Technicians
2017 Median Pay $67,720 per year 
$32.56 per hour
Typical Entry-Level Education  
Work Experience in a Related Occupation None
On-the-job Training  
Number of Jobs, 2016 101,800
Job Outlook, 2016-26 8% (As fast as average)
Employment Change, 2016-26 8,600

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Occupational Health and Safety Specialists and Technicians Career, Salary and Education Information

What Occupational Health and Safety Specialists and Technicians Do

Occupational health and safety specialists and technicians collect data on and analyze many types of work environments and work procedures. Specialists inspect workplaces for adherence to regulations on safety, health, and the environment. Technicians work with specialists in conducting tests and measuring hazards to help prevent harm to workers, property, the environment, and the general public.

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occupational health and safety

Duties of Occupational Health and Safety Specialists and Technicians

Occupational health and safety specialists and technicians typically do the following:

  • Inspect, test, and evaluate workplace environments, equipment, and practices to ensure that they follow safety standards and government regulations

  • Prepare written reports on their findings

  • Design and implement workplace processes and procedures that help protect workers from hazardous work conditions

  • Evaluate programs on workplace health and safety

  • Educate employers and workers about workplace safety by preparing and providing training programs

  • Demonstrate the correct use of safety equipment

  • Investigate incidents and accidents to identify what caused them and how they might be prevented

Occupational health and safety specialists examine the workplace for environmental or physical factors that could affect employee health, safety, comfort, and performance. They may examine factors such as lighting, equipment, materials, and ventilation. Technicians may check to make sure that workers are using required protective gear, such as masks and hardhats.

Some 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.


Work Environment for Occupational Health and Safety Specialists and Technicians

Occupational health and safety specialists held about 83,700 jobs in 2016. The largest employers of occupational health and safety specialists were as follows:

Government: 26%

Manufacturing: 15%

Construction: 8%

Management, scientific, and technical consulting services: 6%

Hospitals; state, local, and private: 4%

 

Occupational health and safety technicians held about 18,100 jobs in 2016. The largest employers of occupational health and safety technicians were as follows:

Government: 17%

Manufacturing: 15%

Construction: 9%

Management, scientific, and technical consulting services: 8%

Hospitals; state, local, and private: 7%

Occupational health and safety specialists and technicians work in a variety of settings, such as offices or factories. Their jobs often involve considerable fieldwork and travel. They may be exposed to strenuous, dangerous, or stressful conditions. They use gloves, helmets, respirators, and other personal protective and safety equipment to minimize the risk of illness and injury.

Work Schedules

Most occupational health and safety specialists and technicians work full time. Some may work weekends or irregular hours in emergencies.


How to Become an Occupational Health and Safety Specialist and Technician

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.

Education

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.

Important Qualities

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:

Training

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.


salaries for Occupational Health and Safety Specialists and Technicians

The median annual wage for occupational health and safety specialists was $71,780 in May 2017. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $41,670, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $105,840.

The median annual wage for occupational health and safety technicians was $49,960 in May 2017. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $31,650, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $82,190.

 

In May 2017, the median annual wages for occupational health and safety specialists in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

Hospitals; state, local, and private: $73,270

Manufacturing: $72,590

Construction: $71,370

Government: $69,530

Management, scientific, and technical consulting services: $66,550

 

In May 2017, the median annual wages for occupational health and safety technicians in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

Construction: $57,580

Government: $49,960

Manufacturing: $47,880

Hospitals; state, local, and private: $45,120

Management, scientific, and technical consulting services: $44,130

Most occupational health and safety specialists and technicians work full time. Some specialists may work weekends or irregular hours in emergencies.


Job Outlook for Occupational Health and Safety Specialists and Technicians

Employment of occupational health and safety specialists is projected to grow 8 percent from 2016 to 2026, about as fast as the average for all occupations. Employment of occupational health and safety technicians is projected to grow 10 percent from 2016 to 2026, faster than the average for all occupations.

Specialists and technicians will be needed to work in a variety of industries and government agencies to ensure that employers are adhering to both existing and new regulations. In addition, specialists will be necessary because insurance costs and workers’ compensation costs have become a concern for many employers and insurance companies. An aging population is remaining in the workforce longer than past generations did, and older workers usually have a greater proportion of workers’ compensation claims.

Job Prospects

Applicants for jobs as occupational health and safety specialists or technicians with a background in the sciences, experience in more than one area of health and safety, or certification will have the best prospects.

Employment projections data for Occupational Health and Safety Specialists and Technicians, 2016-26

Employment, 2016: 153,500

Projected Employment, 2026: 179,900

Change, 2016-2026: +17%, +26,400


Careers Related to Occupational Health and Safety Specialists and Technicians

Construction and Building Inspectors

Construction and building inspectors ensure that construction meets local and national building codes and ordinances, zoning regulations, and contract specifications.

Environmental Science and Protection Technicians

Environmental science and protection technicians monitor the environment and investigate sources of pollution and contamination, including those affecting public health.

Environmental Scientists and Specialists

Environmental scientists and specialists use their knowledge of the natural sciences to protect the environment and human health. They may clean up polluted areas, advise policymakers, or work with industry to reduce waste.

Fire Inspectors

Fire inspectors examine buildings in order to detect fire hazards and ensure that federal, state, and local fire codes are met. Fire investigators, another type of worker in this field, determine the origin and cause of fires and explosions. Forest fire inspectors and prevention specialists assess outdoor fire hazards in public and residential areas.

Health and Safety Engineers

Health and safety engineers develop procedures and design systems to protect people from illness and injury and property from damage. They combine knowledge of engineering and of health and safety to make sure that chemicals, machinery, software, furniture, and other products will not cause harm to people or damage to property.

OccupationENTRY-LEVEL EDUCATION2017 MEDIAN PAY
Construction and Building InspectorsHigh school diploma or equivalent$59,090
Environmental Scientists and SpecialistsBachelor's degree$69,400
Fire Inspectors$56,670
Health and Safety EngineersBachelor's degree$88,510
Environmental Science and Protection TechniciansAssociate's degree$45,490

Citation:

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Occupational Health and Safety Specialists and Technicians, on the Internet at https://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/occupational-health-and-safety-specialists-and-technicians.htm