An occupational health specialist evaluates the employee workplace to ensure that there are no physical or environmental risks. They look for issues that may compromise the safety, comfort, health, or performance of the employees working for a particular facility.
Watch a video to learn what an occupational health specialist does.
How to Become a Occupational Health Specialist
An occupational health specialist holds a bachelor’s degree in occupational health and safety or in a related field such as biology, engineering, or chemistry. In some cases a master’s degree is required in health physics or industrial hygiene.
Most courses include hazardous material management and control, respiratory protection, radiation science, and risk communications. It is advantageous for a high school student that is considering this career field to take subjects in physics, math, English, biology and chemistry prior to going to college.
Though not required, many employees are beginning to request an employee to become certified. This can be done through a variety of organizations. However, the most common route is with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). They offer a wide range of materials and training resources in the recognition, avoidance, and prevention of safety and health hazards in workplaces. Check out their website for more information and training centers in the state you reside in.
Job Description of a Occupational Health Specialist
An occupational health specialist must perform a variety of duties as they are responsible for the health and safety of work environments. They are also expected to design programs to prevent injury and disease to employees or damage to the environment. This is accomplished through the collection of potential toxic materials, inspection of the practiced compliance regulations, and standards in a particular workplace. They usually travel to the worksite for their inspections and gather data from a variety of places like factories, mines, offices, and other areas. They also investigate any accidents to determine cause or future prevention of incidents.
An occupational health specialist must also conduct training like emergency preparedness or other safety topics. This helps prevent workplace accidents and increases safety for employees. In turn saving the company money on insurance premiums and workman’s compensation, as well as avoiding government fines.
An occupational health specialist looks for ways to reduce absenteeism in the workplace and increase worker productivity or equipment downtime. They work closely with physicians and engineers in their goals to repair hazardous conditions or equipment.
Occupational health specialists are expected to have technical abilities, be problem solvers, have good communication skills, and be detail-oriented. In addition to this, an occupational health specialist should prove physical stamina as the job often requires standing for long periods of time, traveling frequently, and may be needed to go into tunnels or mines.
Occupational Health Specialist Career Video Transcript
Occupational health and safety specialists look for accidents waiting to happen. Also called risk managers, their job is to keep workplaces as accident-free as possible. They do this by looking for safer, healthier and more efficient ways of working. Health and safety specialists analyze work environments to identify potential hazards. They use experience, historical data and other sources to identify patterns of injury or illness.
These specialists may conduct inspections to make sure companies comply with laws governing worker health and safety. This can include making sure chemicals are stored or disposed of correctly, or that protective equipment is available and used properly. Occupational health and safety specialists conduct investigations after accidents or injuries to find ways to prevent them in the future. They often coordinate rehabilitation for injured employees to help them return to work.
Occupational health and safety specialists develop and implement training programs to correct risky conditions or practices in the workplace, then monitor their progress. They’re good listeners, and excellent communicators. Most positions in this field require a 4-year degree. You should be detail-oriented and prepared to maintain certification requirements with continuing education to succeed in this field. As many occupational safety and health specialists proudly say: safety on the job is no accident.
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Occupational Health and Safety Specialists and Technicians.
National Center for O*NET Development. 29-9011.00. O*NET OnLine.
The career video is in the public domain from the U. S. Department of Labor, Employment and Training Administration.