What Do Occupational Health and Safety Specialists Do?
Occupational health and safety specialists inspect and evaluate workplace environments, equipment, and practices for compliance with corporate and government health and safety standards and regulations. Specialists inspect workplaces to ensure adherence to regulations on safety, health, and the environment. Additionally, they conduct training on a variety of topics. Examples of this profession include ergonomists and industrial or occupational hygienists. Occupational health and safety specialists are also part of a broader set of public health professions. To view a description of the public health field and a list of other public health professionals, click here.
Occupational health and safety specialists also design programs to prevent disease or injury to workers, and prevent damage to the environment. Specialists seek to increase worker productivity by reducing absenteeism and equipment downtime. They also seek to save money by lowering insurance premiums, workers’ compensation payments, and by preventing government fines. Many jobs involve fieldwork and travel. Most specialists work full time and some specialists work weekends or irregular hours during emergencies.
More about this profession here.
Where Do Occupational Health and Safety Specialists Work?
Occupational health and safety specialists work in varied environments such as offices, factories, and mines. In the federal government, specialists are employed by various agencies, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). In addition to working for local, state, and federal governments, occupational health and safety specialists work in management, scientific and technical consulting services, education services, hospitals, and manufacturing.
Occupational health and safety specialists work in a variety of settings, such as offices, factories, and mines. Their jobs often involve considerable fieldwork and travel. They may be exposed to strenuous, dangerous, or stressful conditions. Specialists use gloves, helmets, respirators, and other personal protective and safety equipment to minimize the risk of illness and injury.
What Do Occupational Health and Safety Specialists Earn?
According to the 2018 BLS, the average salary for full time, occupational health and safety specialists nationwide was $74,940, varying by specialty and geographic region. Average annual salary also varies greatly across New York State, depending on location. The NYSDOL reports occupational health and safety specialists in New York earned an average annual salary of $76,960, (entry level-$49,670, experienced- $90,600).
Supply and Demand
The number of occupational health and safety specialist jobs is projected to increase slower than average in the United States by approximately 4% between 2014 and 2024, and increase by 5.7% in New York State during the same period.
Educational Program Requirements
Occupational health and safety specialists generally have a Bachelor’s degree in occupational health and safety or in a related scientific or technical field, such as engineering, biology, or chemistry. For some positions, a master’s degree in industrial hygiene, health physics, public health, or a related subject is required.
High school students interested in becoming occupational health and safety specialists should take courses in English, math, chemistry, biology, and physics.
New York Licensure Requirements
Certification is usually voluntary though many employers encourage it. Certification is available through various organizations depending on which field the specialist is to work.
Graduation from an accredited educational program is necessary for occupational health and safety specialists to be eligible for most certification examinations. Periodic continuing education is generally required for certification maintenance.
Continuing education may include additional training, certification, or a master’s degree.
For more information on New York licensure requirements, here.
Additional Information from the United States Occupational Safety and Health Administration can be found here.
General information about state and federal scholarship programs and opportunities, here.
Education Programs in New York (Subject to Change)
|SUNY Downstate Medical Center
School of Public Health
Department of Environmental & Occupational Health Sciences
450 Clarkson Ave, Box 43
Phone: (718) 270-1065
|New York City College of Technology
300 Jay St.
Howard Building, 4th Fl.
Brooklyn, NY 11201
Phone: (718) 260-5000
|Rochester Institute of Technology
1 Lomb Memorial Drive
Howard Building, 4th Fl.
Rochester, NY 14623-5603
Phone: (585) 475-2411