Occupational Health and Safety Technician

Construction Health and Safety Technician, Consultant, Consumer Safety Technician   More Names
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Description

Collect health and safety data on the workplace for analysis by occupational health and safety specialists in order to help prevent harm to workers, property, environment, and the general public.

Test air and water for industrial pollution and observe machines and equipment for excessive noise and other dangerous conditions. Examine workplaces for exposure to radiation, chemical, and biological hazards. Review reports from physicians or nurse reports and conduct follow-up studies to determine whether specific instances of worker disease or illness may be job-related.

Occupational health and safety technicians work for private sector companies, non-profit organizations, and local, state, and federal government agencies. They are employed by industrial and manufacturing firms; public and private hospitals; educational institutions; scientific, technical, and environmental consulting organizations; and the energy industry, including utility power generation, transmission and distribution, oil and gas drilling and refining, and coal mining.

About one-quarter of these technicians are employed by local, state, and federal regulatory agencies to provide inspections and enforce health and safety laws and regulations. In some work settings, they perform their occupational health and safety duties on a part-time basis along with other tasks.

Examples of federal agencies that play a significant legal and regulatory role in community and workplace health and safety concerns include the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the U.S. Department of Labor (USDOL), and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Within the USDOL, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) are especially prominent in worker and workplace health and safety matters and enforcement. Each of these federal agencies also has counterparts at the state level and sometimes at the local level as well.

Occupational health and safety technicians work with occupational health and safety specialists to make worksite assessments to determine risks, potential hazards and controls; evaluate risks and hazard control measures; investigate incidents; maintain and evaluate incident and loss records; and prepare emergency response plans. They verify that stationary and mobile safety equipment, such as hearing protectors and respirators, is available to employees and monitor their use. They also check credentials, licenses, and permits to ensure that these are up-to-date and in compliance with requirements.

Some occupational health and safety technicians who work for government agencies will conduct safety inspections that can result in fines for violations. They test the workplace for industrial dangers such as bad air quality or excessive noise as well as for environmental hazards such as exposure to chemical, biological, or radiation dangers. They report the results of their findings and analyses to the occupational health and safety specialists with whom they work, along with their recommendations for corrective actions.

In addition to making workers and the workplace safer, occupational health and safety technicians work with occupational health and safety specialists and employers to increase worker productivity by finding ways to reduce absenteeism and equipment downtime, lower insurance premiums and workers compensation payments, and avoid government fines and penalties. For example, they might help design safer work spaces or improve equipment and machinery use and output performance. They might also help to put in place new safety and workplace improvement programs.

Occupational health and safety technicians also help to prepare and maintain equipment used to collect and analyze samples; check supplies of needed personal protective equipment; and maintain required records and documentation.

Occupational health and safety technician is an entry-level position on the occupational health and safety career ladder. With work experience, a technician can move up to a supervisory position, and with attainment of a bachelor's degree or other advanced degree, they can become an occupational health and safety specialist. Those who go on to earn a bachelor's or master's degree in industrial hygiene may be able to be able to attain even higher steps on this career ladder.

Those who work for federal, state, or local agencies can advance through their particular career ladders. At the higher levels of government employment, advancement is often competitive and based on agency need as well as individual merit.

Credentials Needed: Occupational health and safety technicians generally are not required to be state licensed or registered. Four states, however, currently require licensure for those involved with air quality and mold abatement issues. These states are Arkansas, Florida, Maryland, and New York. The American Council for Accredited Certification (ACAC) lists links to these four states on its website. However, while employment in the occupational health and safety field is not heavily regulated, the environmental and industrial settings that are the focus of the work of occupational health and safety technicians are subject to significant federal, state, and local laws and regulations.

Employers generally prefer to hire entry-level occupational health and safety technicians who have a minimum of an associate degree, especially in business, science, or a health-related field. After completing an associate's or bachelor's degree program, a prospective occupational health and safety technician will have the option of earning a voluntary industry-based certification.

Voluntary industry-based certification is available from several organizations. For example, the Council on Certification of Health, Environmental, and Safety Technologists (CCHEST) awards the Occupational Health and Safety Technologist (OHST) credential - as well as the basically identical Construction Health and Safety Technician (CHST) credential for those who work primarily in a construction environment.

To earn the OHST, an occupational health and safety technician must have duties that require technical skill and knowledge in occupational health or safety; work part-time (at least 35 percent) or full-time in occupational health or safety; have five years of experience in occupational health or safety; and pass the OHST certification exam. However, candidates may substitute college courses in health and safety, or an associate's degree or higher in certain disciplines, for some - or all - of the experience requirement. This last feature makes this certification appropriate for an entry-level occupational health and safety technician.

The Board of Certified Safety Professionals (BCSP) sponsors the Certified Safety Professional (CSP) credential. CSP requirements include an associate's degree of higher, three years of professional safety experience with demonstrated knowledge or professional safety practice, and passing two exams: Safety Fundamentals, which emphasizes recall and recognition of core safety subjects, and Comprehensive Practice, which focuses on the practice of principles in the safety profession.

The American Council for Accredited Certification (ACAC) offers over a dozen specialized certifications for various aspects of air quality including infection control and microbial investigation and remediation. More information about these certifications is available on the ACAC website.

Finally, the American Board of Industrial Hygiene (ABIH) offers the Certified Industrial Hygienist (CIH) credential. To earn the CIH certification, an individual must meet minimum requirements for education and experience as well as demonstrate through examination minimum levels of knowledge in the following areas: air sampling and instrumentation; analytical chemistry; basic science; biohazards; biostatistics and epidemiology; community exposure; engineering controls and ventilation; ergonomics; health risk analysis and hazard communication; management; noise; non-engineering controls; radiation, both ionizing and non-ionizing; thermal stress; toxicology; and work environments and industrial processes.

Because of the broad range and depth of required subject matter expertise, the CIH credential may be better suited to a highly experienced occupational health and safety technician or to an occupational health and safety specialist or industrial hygienist.

Some Key Things to Remember: Occupational health and safety technicians work with occupational health and safety specialists to help prevent harm to workers, property, the environment, and the general public. They make worksite assessments to determine risks, potential hazards and controls; evaluate risks and hazard control measures; investigate incidents; maintain and evaluate incident and loss records, and prepare emergency response plans. For example, they might help design safer work spaces, inspect machinery, or test air quality. Those who work for government agencies also conduct inspections and impose fines as warranted.

Employers prefer to hire entry-level occupational health and safety technicians who have a four-year bachelor's degree, although a two-year associate's degree in a business, science, or health-related field may be acceptable for some positions. This occupation does not require state licensing or registration.

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Job Growth and Wages
Percent Job Growth:  
9% - Average
Typical Wages (National):  
Annual: $37,610 - $63,200    Hourly: $18 - $30
Physical/Medical/Health Requirements

Physical requirements depend on the responsibilities of the particular employment position.

Some positions may involve walking or standing for long periods of time

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Legal Requirements
General/Nationwide
State-Specific
Similar Careers

Occupational Health and Safety Specialist
Typical Education: Bachelor's Degree (High School + 4 or more Years)
Salary (National): $54,320 - $88,050

(Data Drawn from O*NET)
 
      

Career Snapshot

Typical Education:

Bachelor's Degree (High School + 4 or more Years)
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Percent Job Growth:

9% - Average
Find Jobs

Typical Wages:

Annual: $37,610 - $63,200

Hourly: $18 - $30