Occupational Health Technologies

Occupational health and safety technologists and technicians assess hazards and enforce regulations that protect workers and the environment. To learn more about this specialized field, including educational requirements, earnings and employment outlook, read on.

Are Occupational Health Technologies for Me?

Career Overview

Occupational health and safety technicians work with occupational health and safety specialists to ensure that factories, retail locations, offices, mines and other workplaces meet today's rigorous safety standards. Under the supervision of specialists, technicians collect data about potential hazards, including those related to air quality, machinery, radiation and other conditions that might cause worker illness or injury. In addition to measuring potential occupational health risks, they may assist specialists in developing and implementing training programs and designing safer workplaces. In addition to pursuing a formal education, you may be able to enter the field through a combination of classroom and on-the-job training, or by taking on safety responsibilities at your workplace.

Career Options

Occupational health and safety technologists can be employed as health physics or environmental protection technicians, ergonomists, industrial hygienists or mine examiners. Potential employers may include the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) or other government agencies. As an aspiring technician, you might also find work in the quality-assurance department of a large company, where you'll travel to investigate conditions at other company-owned work facilities.

Employment and Salary Information

Based upon information provided by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment of occupational health and safety technicians nationwide was expected to increase by an average rate of 11% from 2012-2022. As of May 2013, the mean annual salary for occupational health and safety technicians was $50,390. By comparison, the number of openings for occupational health and safety specialists was projected to increase by 7%, or slower than average, through 2022, according to the BLS. In May 2013, the mean annual salary for a specialist was $69,050 (www.bls.gov).

How Can I Work in Occupational Health Technologies?

Certificate and Associate Degree Programs

Certificate and associate's degree programs in occupational health and safety technology are designed for aspiring technicians who are interested in entering or advancing in the field. Once enrolled, you'll study material handling and storage procedures, ergonomics and respiratory protection. You'll also be trained in OSHA regulations and hazard communication. Internships and the opportunity to obtain some hands-on experience in the field may also be available. Some schools offer online certificates in industrial hygiene or programs in environmental safety engineering.

Bachelor's and Master's Degree Programs

A bachelor's degree in a relevant field of study, including chemistry or engineering, is the minimum educational requirement for becoming an occupational health and safety specialist. In a 4-year occupational health and safety program, you'll learn how to use your understanding of the physical and biological sciences to assess exposure to hazards, analyze incidents and design safety-training programs. Higher-level positions may require a master's degree in health physics, industrial hygiene or a closely related field.

Certifications

While not always required for employment, the Board of Certified Safety Professionals (BCSP) offers professional certifications for both technologists and technicians. Commonly sought certifications include the Construction Health and Safety Technician, Occupational Health and Safety Technologist and Safety Trained Supervisor credentials. In addition to fulfilling the organization's education and experience requirements, you'll have to achieve a passing score on an exam. Recertification usually takes place every five years and requires a specified number of continuing education credits (www.bcsp.org).

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