Small Business Brief

Safety & Loss Prevention

Safe Workplaces: 5 Insider Tips on How to Become an Occupational Health and Safety Specialist

Employment of occupational health and safety specialists will rise 8% by 2026. With numbers like that, now is the ideal time to be entering the field. But how exactly do you go about breaking into the safety industry?

Here are 5 tips on how to become a safety specialist so you can turn your passion into a career.

1. Get to Know the Field

Occupational health and safety specialists collect and analyze data about work environments and procedures. They do this to ensure workplaces are adhering to safety, health, and environmental regulations.

The goal of a safety specialist is to prevent harm to workers, property, the public, and the environment. They’re also tasked with increasing workplace productivity.

Occupational safety specialists perform a range of roles all aimed at minimizing risk and harm. This can include:

  • Identifying chemical, physical, biological, and radiological hazards
  • Collecting samples of risky materials for analysis
  • Recommending measures to help protect workers 
  • Investigating accidents to identify the cause
  • Inspecting and evaluating workplace environments, practices, and equipment to ensure safety regulations are being followed
  • Developing and conducting employee safety training programs

The tasks a safety specialist undertakes will vary by industry, work environment, and the sorts of hazards that employees come into contact with.

2. Get the Right Education

Safety specialists typically require a bachelor’s degree in occupational health and safety. Degrees from related technical or scientific fields may also suffice. 

Most courses typically include subjects on:

  • Risk communications
  • Hazardous material management and control
  • Radiation science
  • Respiratory protection

The subjects covered may vary according to the specialty being studied. For instance, courses in industrial hygiene will differ from those in health physics.

High school students thinking of becoming an occupational health and safety specialist should focus their studies on:

  • Math
  • Chemistry
  • English
  • Biology
  • Physics

3. Get Extra Certifications

Certification is voluntary but many employers look favorably on candidates that have done it.

It’s recommended that you earn the Certified Safety Professional (CSP) designation. This will prove to employers that you’re committed to a career in the safety profession. You can read more about the CSP here.

4. Get On-The-Job Experience

Formal education is a must when pursuing a career as a safety specialist but you’ll also have to receive on-the-job training and experience to succeed in the career. This training ensures you’re prepared for the field work ahead of you and will vary according to your specialty.

5. Know Your Job Prospects

Employment of safety specialists is on the rise which is good news for those looking to enter the field. This increase is attributed to rising insurance costs and an aging workforce staying in jobs longer than ever before.

Typically, the older the workforce, the more workplace compensation claims are made. This trend has led to companies prioritizing workplace safety in an effort to save money.

A safety specialist will typically earn between $40,000 and $72,000. Your salary expectation will depend heavily on your education and tenure levels. Where you live and work will also play a factor. For instance, the District of Columbia sees salaries of up to $84,200 for safety specialists.

Become an Occupational Health and Safety Specialist

Becoming an occupational health and safety specialist requires hard work and dedication but is worth it in the end. By getting to know the field, ensuring your education and training is on point, and understanding your job prospects you’ll be well on your way to a successful career as a safety expert.

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