After Congress passed the Occupational Safety and Health Act in 1970, careers in occupational health and safety emerged to help enforce the protection of workers and workplaces. The goal of the act was to ensure that employers provide employees with a work environment free from safety and health hazards, such as mechanical dangers, unsanitary conditions, heat or cold stress, or exposure to toxic chemicals.
“Workplace incidents cause an enormous amount of physical, financial and emotional hardship for individual workers and their families,” according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). “Combined with insufficient workers’ compensation benefits and inadequate medical insurance, workplace injuries and illnesses can not only cause physical pain and suffering but also loss of employment and wages, burdensome debt, inability to maintain a previous standard of living, loss of home ownership and even bankruptcy.”
Over the years, the purpose of occupational health and safety professionals has changed from compliance to prevention.
In 2016, nearly 5,200 people died from work-related injuries, while more than 2.8 million others suffered non-fatal injuries and illnesses, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).
Despite these statistics, however, workplace safety has dramatically improved over the past 40 years thanks to OSHA and its state partners. Combined with efforts from employers, health and safety professionals, advocates, and unions, worker deaths in the U.S. have gone down from nearly 38 a day in 1970 to 14 a day in 2016, according to OSHA. The administration also reports worker injuries and illnesses have decreased from nearly 11 incidents per 100 workers in 1972 to fewer than 3 per 100 in 2016.
Safety should be a key focus on any jobsite, which is why occupational safety and health experts continually look for new and innovative ways to protect the well-being of workers.
“Developing and supporting a new generation of practitioners is critical to the future of occupational safety and health,” according to the latest National Assessment of the Occupational Safety and Health Workforce survey completed for the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH).
Job Duties and Responsibilities
Safety consultants are responsible for a variety of duties, from investigating accidents to developing and writing safety manuals and policies. They can also provide safety training, such as demonstrating proper use of fire extinguishers and teaching warehouse workers to operate a forklift.
Perhaps the most important part of the job, however, is evaluating current safety practices and identifying workplace hazards, as well as providing strategies for accident prevention. To accomplish this objective, safety consultants research and present information to employees and may oversee the installation of protective equipment and safety devices.
Overall, the goal of a safety consultant is to protect employees from workplace injuries while protecting a business from losing productivity time and money.
“Today’s safety professionals are well educated, highly motivated, and aim to recognize, evaluate, and control risks to people, property, and the environment,” according to the Board of Certified Safety Professionals (BCSP). “They must be able to apply technology and work with top management to minimize risk and ensure that safety, health, and environmental performance are fundamental measures of business success.”
In addition to knowing about safety assessment methods and a wide range of hazards, safety consultants should be familiar with different scientific fields, business issues, mathematics, engineering concepts, and educational techniques.
Along with earning an advanced degree and gaining experience in their field, occupational safety and health professionals can pursue certifications from the BCSP.
Additional certifications can complement a safety consultant’s professional expertise, provide a competitive advantage, offer more career opportunities, and increase earnings.
A Certified Safety Technician (CST) or Certified Safety Supervisor (CSS) certification from the National Safety Management Society also can earn EKU students up to three credit hours toward the university’s Master of Science degree in Safety, Security, and Emergency Management, upon acceptance into the program.
Career Outlook and Salary
The demand for safety professionals is anticipated to grow about 8 percent by 2026, according to the BLS.
Safety consultants can be independent, working with a variety of clients, or may provide full-time services to one company — public or private. They can also work in a number of industries, such as manufacturing, construction, medicine, education, and transportation.
The average safety consultant salary is about $60,000 per year, according to PayScale.com, although experience can have a moderate effect.
Related fields include safety manager, environmental health and safety director, health and safety consultant, safety director, and environmental manager.
While a bachelor’s degree is the typical minimum requirement to work as a safety consultant, a graduate education can prepare people for more senior-level positions and possible higher salaries.
About Eastern Kentucky University’s Online Master of Science In Safety, Security, and Emergency Management
Students enrolled in EKU’s online MS SSEM program with a concentration in Occupational Safety learn how different work environments operate and the hazards, risks, and threats involved with each.
The degree’s core courses — which include Safety, Security, and Emergency Management Administration, Issues in Security Management, and Legislation and Legal Compliance — can prepare graduates for a variety of occupational health and safety careers, including safety consultant.
The MS SSEM programs also include an online emergency management degree, as well as an online homeland security degree.
EKU’s online format allows students to continue their career and home responsibilities while earning an advanced degree. For more information, contact EKU now.
Occupational Safety and Health Act information: EPA
NIOSH assessment survey: CDC
Fatal work-related injuries statistics: Bureau of Labor Statistics
Non-fatal injuries statistics: OSHA
Today’s safety professionals quote: Board of Certified Safety Professionals
Career Outlook statistics: Bureau of Labor Statistics
Salary and related fields information: PayScale