Business Category Business: career motivation and tips to move ahead

How to Become a Workplace Health and Safety Officer

Workplace health and safety officers are managers that oversee the well-being of workers in dangerous work environment.

Individuals in the field must be aware of federal, state and local laws, and apply them to making workplaces safe. Employment is available in government and the private sector.

Becoming an officer requires both education and experience moving up through the ranks. Individuals hoping to become a manager or officer should expect to continue their education and attain certification in order to advance.

Take postsecondary courses in occupational health and safety. While some organisations allow on-the-job training, a degree will help you in the future as you move up the career ladder. Courses can be found in community colleges and four-year universities. Online courses are available. Select courses that focus on health, biology, physics and chemistry.

Obtain professional certification in occupational health. While certification is not required by all employers, it offers training to help with advancement. The Bureau of Labor Statics recommends the Council on Certification of Health, Environmental and Safety Technologists, or CCHEST, basic training for people starting out in the field. For those working in the construction industry, CCHEST offers the Construction Health and Safety Technician Certification Program. You can obtain certification through community colleges and four-year universities affiliated with CCHEST.

Get on-the-job training and internships. Many schools offering safety studies provide advisers, who will inform you of internship opportunities. On-the-job training provides practical applications for knowledge gained in the classroom. Internships provide networking and offer chances to find jobs in the future.

Obtain advanced degrees in occupational health and safety. According to the American Society of Safety Engineers, 40% of people in the industry have advanced degrees. Seek out degrees and courses designed for the industry you expect to work in.

Gain and maintain additional certifications. Find certifications specific to the industry you work for, or that train for specific health hazards or issues commonly encountered.

CCHEST offers Safety Trained Supervisor Certification programs designed for first-line health and safety managers. This certification offers a chance to move into lower management and advance to higher levels.

Join a professional society. Professional societies publish journals that keep safety officers current on changes in the industry, laws and procedures of occupational health and safety. Societies also provide opportunities to network, continue education and participate in conferences. Examples include the American Society of Safety Engineers and the Board of Certified Safety Professionals.

Network with other occupational health and safety officers. Keeping current on the job market and making connections though education and professional societies will make you aware of opportunities.