What Does An Occupational Health and Safety Specialist Do (including Their Typical Day at Work)

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Salary, Job Description, How To Become One, and Quiz

OHS Specialists

OHS Specialists review, evaluate, and analyze work environments and design programs and procedures to control, eliminate, and prevent disease or injury caused by chemical, physical, and biological agents or ergonomic factors. May conduct inspections and enforce adherence to laws and regulations governing the health and safety of individuals. May be employed in the public or private sector. Includes environmental protection officers.

Salary
$78110
Becoming One
Hard
Education
Bachelor's degree
Job Satisfaction
Job Growth

Personality
Interest Match





Find a job you love and you will never work a day in your life.Confucius

What they do

OHS Specialists review, evaluate, and analyze work environments and design programs and procedures to control, eliminate, and prevent disease or injury caused by chemical, physical, and biological agents or ergonomic factors. May conduct inspections and enforce adherence to laws and regulations governing the health and safety of individuals. May be employed in the public or private sector. Includes environmental protection officers.

  • Recommend measures to help protect workers from potentially hazardous work methods, processes, or materials.
  • Order suspension of activities that pose threats to workers’ health or safety.
  • Investigate accidents to identify causes or to determine how such accidents might be prevented in the future.
  • Inspect or evaluate workplace environments, equipment, or practices to ensure compliance with safety standards and government regulations.

Typical day

On a daily basis, OHS Specialists inspect or evaluate workplace environments, equipment, or practices to ensure compliance with safety standards and government regulations. They recommend measures to help protect workers from potentially hazardous work methods, processes, or materials.

  • Investigate the adequacy of ventilation, exhaust equipment, lighting, or other conditions that could affect employee health, comfort, or performance.
  • Develop or maintain hygiene programs, such as noise surveys, continuous atmosphere monitoring, ventilation surveys, or asbestos management plans.
  • Develop or maintain medical monitoring programs for employees.
  • Perform laboratory analyses or physical inspections of samples to detect disease or to assess purity or cleanliness.
  • Maintain or update emergency response plans or procedures.

Other responsibilities

Besides their typical day, OHS Specialists also investigate the adequacy of ventilation, exhaust equipment, lighting, or other conditions that could affect employee health, comfort, or performance. They may also conduct safety training or education programs and demonstrate the use of safety equipment.

On a weekly to monthly basis, OHS Specialists analyze incident data to identify trends in injuries, illnesses, accidents, or other hazards. They might also provide new-employee health and safety orientations and develop materials for these presentations.

In addition, they investigate accidents to identify causes or to determine how such accidents might be prevented in the future.

Although specific duties may vary, many of them recommend measures to help protect workers from potentially hazardous work methods, processes, or materials.

To some OHS Specialists, it is also their responsibility to inspect or evaluate workplace environments, equipment, or practices to ensure compliance with safety standards and government regulations.

Freedom to make decisions

How much decision making freedom does this job offer?

No freedom
0%

Very little freedom
0%

Limited freedom
9%

Some freedom
55%

A lot of freedom
36%

Structured vs unstructured work

To what extent is this job structured for you versus allowing you to determine your own tasks, priorities, and goals?

No freedom
0%

Very little freedom
0%

Limited freedom
14%

Some freedom
57%

A lot of freedom
29%


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What is the job like

Job satisfaction

High

Is this job meaningful

Very High

73% said they were satisfied with their job and 73% said they found their job meaningful.


Alex Hepple
Queensland University of Technology (QUT)

I’m a Health, Safety, and Environment Partner at Queensland University of Technology (QUT).

My typical day

Our main focus is ensuring that there are safe systems and processes of doing research and teaching, monitoring and reporting on trends, and investigating incidents.

A typical day involves:

  • Communicating with staff and students via email, phone calls, and in person.
  • Attending meetings and committees
  • Investigating health, safety, and environment incidents

Less often the role involves:

  • Conducting audits/inspections
  • Running/organising training and/or events
  • Reporting to regulatory bodies

Pros

  • Health and safety roles within a Tertiary education environment are often very varied and you get to learn broadly about a lot of different areas. Depending on the location, Universities offer teaching courses and conduct research across the whole spectrum of human knowledge. You might find yourself advising on chemical safety in laboratories, ergonomics in office spaces, guarding attachments in design workshops, or safe work with biological materials in laboratories.
  • Tertiary education typically has good employment standards. At least in Australia, many of the benefits that are typical of government positions can are available in the University roles, like higher superannuation rates (similar to 401k contributions in the US), flexible working hours, and leave arrangements. Universities can also be quite progressive in their approach to workplace arrangements compared to the private industry, perhaps due to strong advocacy mechanisms, and/or as part of preserving the image of being society’s locus for cultural change.
  • Some tasks/activities give you a nice sense of helping people. There is an altruistic component to improving the health and safety of people and the environment. It may be as simple as helping someone with their desk setup or putting in place measures to prevent catastrophic equipment failure in research projects.

Cons

  • If you prefer to be an expert in a certain area (like an Academic) then this is probably not the role for you. You need to be more of a generalist across a range of topics (at least in my role). There are however opportunities to specialize in certain fields like occupational hygiene or ergonomics.
  • You sometimes come across people that have negative perceptions of health and safety roles, and of the area in general. People can sometimes see you as getting in the way of what they are trying to achieve. This can sometimes lead to confrontations and requires good people skills and communication to make things happen.
  • Universities are often large and complex workplaces, many of which have a long history of operation. This rich history can also come with residual and somewhat archaic processes. So be willing to put up with some red tape preventing quick changes to be made. This may not be as much of a concern with more modern and nimble institutions.

Advice to students interested in getting into OHS

Most health, safety and environment related positions today require at least an undergraduate degree (or similar) qualification. If you know from the start of your career that this is the field for you, then you can jump straight into an OHS course. Some related course names in this field are occupational health and safety (OHS), occupational therapy, physiology, rehabilitation, environmental science/health/engineering.

If you’re like me, you started your career in another field, I believe there is still ample opportunity to transfer your qualifications and experience into an OHS role. In my experience, I have seen a lot of people coming into an OHS role without having specific OHS qualifications. Unlike other established fields like law and medicine, I would suggest that having tertiary qualifications in other specializations might make you more employable, especially in a university environment. This may not be the case however if you are looking at an OHS role in a more specialized company (e.g. a background in nutrition won’t help you much for a role as an OHS consultant in a construction firm). You may need to top up your qualifications with something minor to bridge the gap into the safety world.

If you are looking to make the transition from your current role, then I would suggest nominating for various health and safety roles in your current company which shows you are interested and keen to learn. Businesses often need volunteers to take on additional responsibilities like first aid officers, health and safety advisers, fire wardens, etc. They are small steps, but steps all the same.

Alex Hepple
Health, Safety, and Environment Partner at Queensland University of Technology (QUT)
Founder of EscapeDomain.com


Pros

Suitable for people who like to solve problems mentally.

Suitable for people who want to work in a supportive work environment.

This career is perfect for people who love to work indoors.

Demand for this career is growing.

Cons

Not suitable for people who like to work with designs.

It is hard to get into this career. A considerable amount of work-related skill, knowledge, or experience is required for this career.

Long working hours (More than 40 hours per week).

How much do they make

Average salary

$78110 per year

Average hourly wage

$38 per hour

Entry-level OHS Specialists with little to no experience can expect to make anywhere between $44,710 to $58,820 per year or $21 to $28 per hour.

Salary by experience Annual Hourly
Highest (Top 10%) $112,850 $54
Senior (Top 25%) $95,190 $46
Median $76,340 $37
Junior (Bottom 25%) $58,820 $28
No experience (Bottom 10%) $44,710 $21

This table shows the top 10 highest paying industries for OHS Specialists based on their average annual salary.

Salary by industry Annual Hourly
Scientific Research and Development Services $97490 $46.87
Petroleum and Coal Products Manufacturing $97380 $46.82
Oil and Gas Extraction $94300 $45.34
Natural Gas Distribution $94250 $45.31
Technical and Trade Schools $93060 $44.74
Computer Systems Design and Related Services $93060 $44.74
Aerospace Product and Parts Manufacturing $92960 $44.69
Computer and Peripheral Equipment Manufacturing $92170 $44.31
Electric Power Generation, Transmission and Distribution $91960 $44.21
Pipeline Transportation of Crude Oil $90730 $43.62

View more salary by industries here.

Where can they work

Where can OHS Specialists work? Here is a table showing the top 10 largest employers of OHS Specialists including the average salary in that industry.

Employers Total Employed Annual Salary Hourly Wages
Management, Scientific, and Technical Consulting Services 7450 $77760 $37.38
Federal Executive Branch 7130 $88380 $42.49
Local Government 6730 $69130 $33.23
State Government 6480 $65650 $31.56
Management of Companies and Enterprises 4420 $86180 $41.43
Nonresidential Building Construction 3610 $78490 $37.74
General Medical and Surgical Hospitals 3040 $78530 $37.76
Colleges, Universities, and Professional Schools 2940 $76310 $36.69
Truck Transportation 2440 $63030 $30.30
Utility System Construction 2420 $78780 $37.87

What is the work day like

Working hours

Less than 40 hours
0%

40 hours
45%

More than 40 hours
55%

Working schedule

50%

50%

0%

Work with group or team

How important is it to work with others in a group or team in this job?

Not important at all
0%

Fairly important
0%

Important
10%

Very important
33%

Extremely important
57%

Deal with external customers

How important is it to work with customers in this job?

Not important at all
0%

Fairly important
18%

Important
18%

Very important
41%

Extremely important
23%

Manage or lead others

How important is it to coordinate or lead others in completing work activities in this job?

Not important at all
0%

Fairly important
5%

Important
32%

Very important
50%

Extremely important
14%

Email

How often do you use email in this job?

Once a week
5%

Every day
95%

Telephone

How often do you have telephone conversations in this job?

Once a week
14%

Every day
82%

Group discussions

How often do you have group discussions in this job?

Once a week
18%

Every day
82%

Public speaking

How often does this job require you to do public speaking?

Never
0%

Once a year
41%

Once a month
41%

Once a week
9%

Every day
9%

Frequency of conflict situations

How often are there conflict situations in this job?

Never
0%

Once a year
25%

Once a month
60%

Once a week
15%

Every day
0%

Dealing with angry people

How often do you have to deal with angry, unpleasant, or discourteous individuals in this job?

Never
0%

Once a year
50%

Once a month
41%

Once a week
9%

Every day
0%

Dealing with physically aggressive people

How often do you have to deal with physically aggressive people in this job?

Never
59%

Once a year
41%

Once a month
0%

Once a week
0%

Every day
0%

Level of competition

How much competitive pressure is in this job?

Not competitive at all
5%

Slightly competitive
5%

Moderately competitive
77%

Highly competitive
14%

Extremely competitive
0%

Repetition in this job

How important is repeating the same type of task over and over in this job?

Not important at all
24%

Fairly important
38%

Important
24%

Very Important
10%

Extremely Important
5%

Impact of decisions on co-workers or company results

What results do your decisions usually have on other people or the reputation or financial resources of your employer?

No impact
0%

Minor impact
5%

Moderate impact
0%

Important impact
55%

Very important impact
41%

Frequency of decision making

How frequently do you have to make decisions that affect other people, the financial resources, and/or the reputation of the company?

Never
0%

Once a year
5%

Once a month
27%

Once a week
41%

Every day
27%

Responsibility for others’ health and safety

How much responsibility is there for the health and safety of others in this job?

No responsibility
0%

Limited responsibility
0%

Moderate responsibility
0%

High responsibility
14%

Very high responsibility
86%

Responsibility for outcomes and results

How much responsibility is there for the work outcomes and results of other workers?

No responsibility
0%

Limited responsibility
18%

Moderate responsibility
41%

High responsibility
27%

Very high responsibility
14%

What is the work environment like

Office-style environment

Indoors in an environmentally controlled condition

Never
0%

Once a year or more
5%

Once a month or more
9%

Once a week or more
41%

Every day
45%

Warehouse-style environment

Indoors in a non-controlled environmental condition such as a warehouse

Never
0%

Once a year or more
5%

Once a month or more
32%

Once a week or more
45%

Every day
18%

Outdoors

Outdoors exposed to all weather conditions

Never
5%

Once a year or more
14%

Once a month or more
50%

Once a week or more
27%

Every day
5%

Outdoors – Under Cover

Outdoors but under cover (e.g. structure with roof but no walls)

Never
5%

Once a year or more
36%

Once a month or more
27%

Once a week or more
27%

Every day
5%

How to become one

Difficulty to become one

Hard
You will need a considerable amount of work-related skill, knowledge, or experience. Careers in this difficulty category usually require a Bachelor’s degree and several years of work-related experience, on-the-job training, and/or vocational training. Similar careers include Database Administrators, Chemists, Art Directors, and Accountants.

Required level of education

What level of education do you need to perform the job?

Less than a High School Diploma
0%

High School Diploma or equivalent
0%

Post-Secondary Certificate
5%

Some College Courses
0%

Associate’s Degree or similar
0%

Bachelor’s Degree
73%

Post-Baccalaureate Certificate
5%

Master’s Degree
18%

Post-Master’s Certificate
0%

First Professional Degree
0%

Doctoral Degree
0%

Post-Doctoral Training
0%

Relevant work experience

How much related work experience do you need to get hired for the job?

None
14%

1 month
0%

1 to 3 months
0%

3 to 6 months
10%

6 months to 1 year
10%

1 to 2 years
24%

2 to 4 years
19%

4 to 6 years
19%

6 to 8 years
0%

8 to 10 years
0%

Over 10 years
5%

On The Job Training

How much on the job training do you need to perform the job?

None or short demonstration
5%

1 month
5%

1 to 3 months
10%

3 to 6 months
29%

6 months to 1 year
29%

1 to 2 years
14%

2 to 4 years
10%

4 to 10 years
0%

Over 10 years
0%

Should you become one

Best personality type for this career

The Thinker

People with this personality likes to work with ideas that require an extensive amount of thinking. They prefer work that requires them to solve problems mentally.

The Builder
57%

People with The Builder personality type likes practical and hands-on work. They prefer working with plants, animals, and real-world materials like wood, tools, and machinery.


The Thinker
95%

People with The Thinker personality likes to work with ideas that require an extensive amount of thinking. They prefer work that requires them to solve problems mentally.


The Artist
19%

People with The Artist personality likes to work with designs and patterns. They prefer activities that require self-expression and prefer work that can be done without following a clear set of rules.


The Helper
57%

People with The Helper personality type likes to work with people and in teams. They prefer work that allows them to build relationships with others.


The Leader
38%

People with The Leader personality likes to start and work on projects. They also like leading people and making many decisions.


The Organizer
76%

People with The Organizer personality type likes to follow set procedures and routines. They prefer working with data and details more than with ideas.


You can read more about these career personality types here.

People who are suitable for this job tend to like working with ideas and require an extensive amount of thinking. They like searching for facts and figuring out problems mentally.

They also like following set procedures and routines. They like working with data and details more than with ideas.

Take this quiz to see if this is the right career for you.

Work Values

Which values are the most important to a person’s satisfaction for this job?

Achievement
71%

You are someone who is results oriented. You prefer work that allows you to utilize your skills and abilities while at the same time giving you a sense of accomplishment.

Working Conditions
74%

You are someone who values job security, steady employment, and good working conditions. You also prefer work that keeps you busy all the time with something different to do every day.

Recognition
67%

You are someone who values job advancement and leadership roles. You prefer work that receives recognition for the work you do and jobs that are looked up to by others in the company and your community.

Relationships
67%

You are someone who likes to provide a service to others. You prefer a work environment where you can work with your co-workers in a friendly non-competitive environment.

Support
81%

You are someone who values a company that stands behind their employees. You prefer a work environment where everyone is treated fairly and is being supported by the company.

Independence
71%

You are someone who likes to work on your own and make your own decisions. You prefer work that requires little supervision and are allowed to try out your own ideas.

FAQ


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