Occupational safety specialists provide safeguards to ensure workplaces are free from danger. They check air quality, review safety violations, and determine risks to mitigate future problems. They ensure companies are adhering to safety, health, and environmental regulations, and strive to reduce the number of workplace injuries, illnesses, and deaths.
Most employers prefer safety experts who have bachelor’s degrees because the education delves into the legal, ethical, and professional responsibilities that come with the position and provides academic preparation in fire safety, hazardous materials handling, construction safety, and safety training strategies, among other topics.
Safety specialists must keep pace with continually changing standards and regulatory compliance procedures while working across the spectrum of industries from tech to construction. With occupational safety employment opportunities expected to grow 8 percent by 2026, the nation will see an even greater demand for safety specialists in the coming decade, the U.S. Department of Labor said.
Every business has safety risks, whether from improper ergonomic techniques, chemical spills, or construction accidents. Effective occupational safety procedures protect against injuries, lost hours of productivity, and corporate expenses.
On a national level, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) oversees and investigates workplace injuries and deaths in private-sector businesses and federal government agencies.
OSHA regulations require employers, at a minimum, to protect their workers from hazards, provide ongoing safety training, and keep detailed records of employee injuries and deaths. OSHA also requires employers to report the death or severe injury of an employee within eight hours of the incident.
OSHA inspectors perform annual safety reviews, investigate incidents and have the legal authority to levy fines against businesses for failure to keep employees safe. But even with the inspections and financial penalties, OSHA estimates about 4,500 workers are killed annually as a result of their jobs.
The federal agency reported these issues as the top ten most frequently cited workplace safety violations in fiscal year 2017:
Even though no specific regulations require the hiring of occupational safety specialists, OSHA requires employers to use a “competent person” to follow through on safety procedures. The definition of a competent person depends on the hazard and the situation.
Being successful in the field of occupational safety requires strong problem-solving and communication skills, aptitude in math and science, and concern for public safety. Safety specialists must be able to decipher continually changing state and federal regulations, adapt to workplace changes and implement safeguards to prevent hazards and threats.
With so many lives at risk, occupational safety specialists need a solid academic background with skills in math and science. Since they typically work in industries that can be hazardous, such as chemical manufacturing, mining, and construction, they must also have a technical background to find solutions to possible dangers.
A bachelor of science in occupational safety prepares students for work in hazardous conditions with instruction in topics that include accident prevention, safety engineering, fire safety, hazard identification, and safety training strategies. A baccalaureate education also encourages the critical thinking skills necessary to identify hazards and solve problems.
Employers know baccalaureate-educated safety specialists are academically prepared to take on leadership roles and make significant contributions to the well-being of employees. They work with all levels of management to provide corporate training and coordinate activities that impact health and safety.
A bachelor’s degree prepares graduates to work as occupational health and safety compliance inspectors, industrial hygienists, hazard control managers, environmental protection officers, and ergonomists, among others.
Through Eastern Kentucky University’s online Bachelor of Science in Occupational Safety, students learn to identify hazards and use critical-thinking skills to mitigate potential problems. The 100 percent online format allows students to continue their personal and work responsibilities while earning an undergraduate degree.
Students learn from occupational safety experts who have real-world experience that can be applied to everyday instances. The school’s exclusive internship agreements with companies that include Georgia-Pacific, Owens Corning, and Amazon have provided skills training and career opportunities for graduates. For more information about the program, contact an educational advisor now.