If you’re technically inclined and like to travel, a career as an occupational health and safety specialist might be an excellent fit.
Sometimes known as occupational health and safety inspectors, these professionals play key roles in keeping workplaces safe and protecting the environment. They can also play a pivotal part in boosting worker productivity and cutting absenteeism. Through their efforts, employers may be able to lower insurance premiums and workers’ compensation payments.
Government statistics indicate that about 29% of occupational health and safety specialists are employed by local, state or federal agencies, with others working in scientific and technical consulting, educational services, hospitals and other healthcare settings and manufacturing.
Occupational health and safety specialists are tasked with inspecting workplaces and scrutinizing procedures of all kinds to make sure they are in compliance with health, safety and environmental regulations. They might also conceive and implement programs to prevent worker injury or to improve employee health.
Inspectors perform a wide range of duties, including collecting samples of potentially harmful materials for analysis, investigating accidents and examining ventilation, lighting and equipment in workplaces. Specialists who work for government agencies such as the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) may also impose fines for violations.
Inspectors often travel to worksites and may work weekends and irregular hours during emergencies.
Job Outlook and Salary Range for Occupational Health and Safety Specialists
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects jobs for occupational health and safety specialists will increase by 4% nationwide through 2024.
The need for workers will come from several sources, the BLS said. An aging workforce is likely to result in a rising number of workers’ compensation claims. Also, the adoption of tougher regulations should spur the need for health and safety inspectors, the BLS said.
The median pay for occupational health and safety specialists in May 2016 was $70,920, the BLS said. Those working for the federal government had an average salary of $79,730, while those employed by state governments were paid an average of $59,620.
Earning potential and job opportunities will vary based on regional market factors and a candidate’s educational qualifications and work history.
Education and Training for Occupational Health and Safety Specialists
A bachelor’s degree generally is a minimum educational requirement for employment as an occupational health and safety specialist. Coursework may include classes in biology, chemistry, psychology, technical writing, industrial hygiene, construction safety, economics and management. Some positions may require a master’s degree, the BLS notes.
Specialized courses, internships or on-the-job training may be required based on a student’s desired area of expertise. Some employers may prefer candidates who have attained voluntary certification through a professional organization.
Occupational health and safety specialists should have solid communication skills, an attention to detail and knowledge of the latest technologies and tools.