The best Government Job Source

Occupational Health and Safety Technicians

Significant Points
  • About 22 percent of technicians worked in government agencies that enforce rules on safety, health, and the environment.
  • Technicians attend postsecondary school or enter the occupation through work experience and training.
  • Individuals with a well-rounded breadth of knowledge in more than one health and safety specialty will have the best job prospects.
Nature of the Work

Occupational health and safety technicians work with occupational health and safety specialists to help prevent harm to workers, property, the environment, and the general public. For example, they might help design safe work spaces, inspect machines, or test air quality. In addition to making workers safer, technicians work with specialists to increase worker productivity by reducing absenteeism and equipment downtime, and to save money by lowering insurance premiums and workers' compensation payments, and preventing government fines. Some technicians work for governments conducting safety inspections and imposing fines.

Occupational health and safety technicians take measurements and collect workplace data either for routine inspection or as directed by a specialist. Technicians often focus on testing air, water, machines, and other elements of the work environment. They collect data that occupational health and safety specialists then analyze. Usually working under the supervision of specialists, they also help to implement and evaluate safety programs.

To measure hazards, such as noise or radiation, occupational health and safety technicians prepare and calibrate scientific equipment. They must properly collect and handle samples of dust, gases, vapors, and other potentially toxic materials to ensure personal safety and accurate test results.

To ensure that machinery and equipment complies with appropriate safety regulations, occupational health and safety technicians may examine and test machinery and equipment, such as lifting devices, machine guards, or scaffolding. They may check that personal protective equipment, such as masks, respirators, protective eyewear, or hardhats, is being used according to regulations. They also check that hazardous materials are stored correctly. They test and identify work areas for potential accident and health hazards, such as toxic vapors, mold, mildew, and explosive gas-air mixtures and help implement appropriate control measures, such as adjustments to ventilation systems. Their inspection of the workplace might involve talking with workers and observing their work, as well as inspecting elements in their work environment, such as lighting, tools, and equipment.

The responsibilities of occupational health and safety technicians vary by industry, workplace, and types of hazards affecting employees. Mine examiners, for example, are technicians who inspect mines for proper air flow and health hazards such as the buildup of methane or other noxious gases. Environmental protection technicians evaluate and coordinate the storage and handling of hazardous waste, the cleanup of contaminated soil or water, or other activities that affect the environment. Health physics technicians work in places that use radiation and radioactive material, helping to protect people and the environment from hazardous radiation exposure. Industrial hygiene technicians examine the workplace for health hazards, such as exposure to lead, asbestos, pesticides, or communicable diseases.

Work environment. Occupational health and safety technicians work in a variety of settings from offices and factories to mines. Their jobs often involve considerable fieldwork, and some require frequent travel.

Occupational health and safety technicians may be exposed to many of the same strenuous, dangerous, or stressful conditions faced by industrial employees. They may find themselves in an adversarial role if an organization disagrees with their recommendations. Most technicians work the typical 40 hour week. Some occupational health and safety technicians may be required to work overtime, and often irregular, hours.

Safety and Occupational Health Specialist, GS-0018-05

As a trainee attends formal courses, performs selected on the job assignments, and receives instructions on agency or departmental goals, objectives, regulations, procedures, occupational hazards, safety standards, inspection techniques, and work processes.

  • Receives classroom instruction and completes written assignments to become familiar with: (a) Federal occupational safety laws, legal statutes and Executive Orders; (b) industrial processes and hazards; (c) psychological concepts in human relations; (d) mishap investigation techniques; and (e) hazards related to construction sites, electrical installation, compressed gases, and materials handling.
  • Participates as member of a survey or inspection team led by a higher graded specialist and is exposed to the practical application of techniques and measures used to identify hazards; attends and observes closing sessions where violations of appropriate standards and subsequent corrective requirements are discussed with management representatives.
  • Studies and reviews past inspection records to further understanding of the application of technical standards to specific unsafe acts or conditions.
Safety and Occupational Health Specialist, GS-0018-07

The specialist performs survey work to identify and evaluate hazardous and nonhazardous industrial work operations and conditions and to recommend corrective procedures where the potential for injury or property damage exists.

  • Participates as member of team led by a higher graded specialist, conducting a limited segment of a major inspection of a large manufacturing firm producing and storing ammunition and explosives; surveys nonionizing radiation sources, the use of machine guards, and chemical storage areas; drafts a report of findings proposing corrective measures for unsafe conditions and hazardous work practices.
  • Conducts independent inspections of small, privately owned firms where exposure and type of hazard is predictable in advance.
  • Provides informal instruction to work leaders and employees covering a variety of standard, general safety and occupational health subjects including mishap prevention and safe working practices.
  • Analyzes accident and injury reports, studying data to discover trends and mishap causes, and to develop recommendations for eliminating or controlling the hazards detected.
Safety and Occupational Health Specialist, GS-0018-09

Conducts safety and occupational health surveys at a military installation, recommends measures to eliminate or control hazardous practices and conditions which may cause mishaps; prepares supplemental written safety procedures for application to local organizational components.

  • Performs periodic onsite surveys for assigned organizations; inspects construction projects and designs to determine compliance with applicable occupational safety standards, (e.g., question of exits and stairs, floor load capacity, aisle space, adequacy of sprinkling systems, safety features on storage tanks containing flammable and volatile liquids, and the adequacy of scaffolding erected to facilitate painting of buildings).
  • Advises supervisors and safety representatives of appropriate safety and occupational health measures to control or eliminate hazardous operating processes or environmental conditions.
  • Prepares and revises safety instructions and guides that are relevant to current or planned contractor and base employees.
  • Investigates mishaps, obtains statements from witnesses, and photographs mishap scene; records circumstances of mishap and extent of injuries, estimates cost of property damage, and prepares a final report of findings with recommendations to correct the unsafe acts or conditions that caused the personnel injury or property damage.
  • Provides technical safety training to supervisors and employees using a wide variety of materials, publications, exhibits, protective devices, and visual aids; promotes safety campaigns through oral presentations at local safety committee meetings, posting safety displays, and publishing mishap prevention articles.
Safety and Occupational Health Specialist, GS-0018-11

Serves as a safety and occupational health manager at a military installation and is responsible for planning, directing, coordinating and evaluating a 24-hour safety and occupational health program. As manager, issues local directives and procedures establishing technical and administrative safety and occupational health requirements for industrial, construction, commercial and transportation activities.

  • Plans and schedules periodic surveys of installation facilities and provides advice and guidance to managers engaged in a full range of industrial and maintenance functions including the operation of a steam plant, machine and sheet metal shops; handling, storage, and maintenance of liquid oxygen and other hazardous materials; performance of aircraft and vehicle maintenance work; construction of additions to existing buildings or converting structures to different uses; and operation of commissaries for military personnel and dependents.
  • Recommends to installation management the application of specific techniques, methods, and procedures to eliminate or control unsafe acts or conditions identified in surveys or through a mishap information system.
  • Investigates and analyzes mishaps and hazardous conditions to determine origin, causes, and contributing elements and prepares written evaluation reports concerning findings. Reports typically contain graphs, charts, and recommendations for changes in operating procedures, local regulations, and use of protective devices.
  • Initiates and carries out safety education activities, promoting safety awareness through safety councils, providing training courses such as traffic safety to employees, preparing brochures and newsletters explaining job safety procedures, and meeting with specialized equipment operators, (e.g., forklift operators, to discuss safe and unsafe work practices).
  • Coordinates activities involving, for example, procuring machine guards for new machines, determining respirator capabilities, or acquiring technical data on fire incidents with related operational and support program personnel (such as procurement, medical, fire protection, personnel, health physics, and industrial hygiene).
  • Promotes area wide safety activities such as a fire prevention week which require participation in State, county, and municipal planning conferences.
Safety and Occupational Health Specialist, GS-0018-12

Serves as a regional safety and occupational health manager for a recreation and land management agency and is responsible for administering a safety and occupational health program encompassing extensive park lands, private concessions, including hotels and recreational facilities, vocational training centers, water treatment plants, maintenance shops, and a wide variety of public visitor attractions.

  • Develops goals and objectives, prepares safety policies, procedures and guidelines, organizes and executes program budget, develops safety training curriculum and reviews proposed equipment procurement requests to insure the inclusion of necessary safety features.
  • Surveys numerous warehouses, dormitory and camp structures, extensive recreational areas, and private concessions in a large geographic region to determine compliance with safety and fire standards; devises and implements measures to control or eliminate recognized hazards.
  • Provides technical safety and occupational health guidance to supervisors responsible for hazardous activities pursued by thousands of public visitors such as use of snowmobiles, scuba diving, skiing, and mountain and cliff climbing, where standard safety criteria are not published.
  • Serves as a member of a Board of Inquiry and investigates visitor mishap fatalities and prepares a chronological narrative of factors contributing to the incident, including photographs of the mishap scene, statements from witnesses, autopsy and pathological reports; summarizes Board findings, develops conclusions and makes recommendations for elimination or control of hazards identified.
  • Reviews architectural and engineering drawings for new building construction, historic building preservation, and major alterations to recreational facilities; recommends changes as necessary to obtain compliance with standards and minimize risks to human life and damage to property.
  • Conducts special studies such as the prevention and suppression of timber and range fires, the elimination of sewage pollution of potable water sources, and the resolution of safety problems caused by the blasting of uncleared sites for new construction.
  • Implements a regional automated mishap data system and analyzes mishap trends to determine contributing factors and to devise measures which are economically feasible in controlling or eliminating actual or potential hazards to Job Corp and Youth Conservation Corp participants, public visitors, and employees.
  • Promotes educational campaigns using posters, pamphlets, and literature through line supervisors and motivates visitors and employees to practice mishap prevention procedures for activities such as boating, hiking, camping, and operation of a variety of automotive vehicles.
Safety and Occupational Health Manager, GS-0018-13

Serves as a safety and occupational health manager in a military department and is responsible for administering a safety and occupational health program for an organizational component engaged in widely dispersed and diversified activities over a large geographic area. These activities include the maintenance of dams and reservoirs, levees, flood walls, and pumping stations; channel improvements and construction of military facilities.

  • Plans, organizes, directs and controls a field safety and occupational health program covering an extensive geographic area and involving a large variety of agency operations including: (1) river revetment and maintenance activities requiring self-propelled major floating plants, dredges, and towboats functioning simultaneously at separate and remote locations; (2) three hydroelectric power plants; (3) seven reservoirs and a sewage and water treatment plant; (4) four navigation locks and dams; and (5) a repair base for barges, towboats and heavy construction equipment.
  • Develops and directs the establishment of safety and occupational health requirements applicable to numerous private construction, maintenance, maritime, and manufacturing operations including three facilities collectively producing approximately 1,000,000 tons of concrete mat annually; provides specific procedures controlling or eliminating hazardous actions and conditions identified through analysis of construction plans or inspections.
  • Plans and prepares regulations and guidelines applicable to a broad variety of recreational risks at reservoir sites visited by thousands of citizens yearly. Typically, the visitors engage in swimming, boating, water skiing, skin diving, camping, hunting, fishing, and motorcycle riding activities provided through privately operated concessions.
  • Develops and conducts a safety education program to fulfill the employee development requirements of a diverse workforce engaged in hazardous occupations that include hundreds of seasonal, manual laborers working at scattered sites; equipment operators, deckhands, boat pilots, power plant electricians, mechanics, lock and dam operators, divers, machinists, welders, pipe fitters and barge and towboat mechanics.
  • Directs the systematic compilation and analysis of mishap data and hazards to property, interprets and evaluates the accumulated information and eliminates or controls the identified hazard by applying standard techniques or devising new methods that are often required by high risk construction or maritime operations.
  • Tests and modifies, as appropriate, various types of protective equipment such as life vests, safety ropes, and safety nets to ensure compliance with applicable safety criteria.
Safety and Occupational Health Manager, GS-0018-14

Serves as the principal safety and occupational health manager for a Federal agency providing health care services to diverse client groups and plans, directs, coordinates, and evaluates a comprehensive agency program. The programs require the development of safety criteria to eliminate or control serious hazards encountered in the construction, operation, and maintenance of agency-wide health care facilities and research laboratories. The program also covers complex, research, development and testing functions assigned to health care centers and laboratories throughout the United States and U.S. territories.

  • Serves as the principal safety and occupational advisor to the agency administrator, justifies operating expenditures including staffing requirements, interprets new safety and occupational health legislation, and recommends the adoption or implementation of specific policies and procedures.
  • Assigns program activities to subordinate organizational levels, assures that each echelon is participating fully in the program and evaluates safety requirements proposed for future facilities and new equipment procurements.
  • As a consultant to principal agency program managers operating sixty public hospitals and approximately 300 health centers and clinics and serving American Indians, Alaskan Natives, members of the U.S. Coast Guard, Federal prisoners and Hansen's Disease patients, the manager provides extensive technical guidance and assistance on diverse, complex hazardous conditions in widely dispersed geographic regions that require specialized safety approaches.
  • Plans, organizes and conducts an agency-wide comprehensive inspection activity, evaluates the effectiveness of occupational safety requirements in the work environment, assesses the degree of compliance with applicable regulations and standards, and develops changes and modifications to a broad range of work processes, equipment operations, and protective devices to minimize injuries to patients and employees and damage to agency property.
  • Administers a management information system which generates mishap, injury, and illness data for the agency and identifies specific hazardous conditions that require in depth analysis and subsequent implementation of measures to control or eliminate unsafe conditions.
  • Represents the agency by participating in national conferences convoked by the National Safety Council, American Hospital Association, Joint Commission on Accreditation of Hospitals, and National Fire Protection Association to develop and adopt occupational safety and fire standards for hospitals, medical care facilities, and contractor operated research laboratories.
  • Plans, develops, and implements agency-wide safety and occupational health standards and procedures for application during the construction phase of new health care facilities to eliminate potential hazards such as: (1) unsafe storage conditions for radioactive substances, flammable liquids and corrosive, toxic, and reactive chemicals; (2) inadequate laboratory air flow and improper sprinkling systems for fire suppression; (3) insufficient emergency electric power capability; and (4) deficient hazardous waste disposal sites.
  • Directs agency-wide educational effort for health care managers and employees in occupational safety regulations, practices and procedures appropriate to a hospital or health care environment; this responsibility is complicated by the diverse background of the employees which ranges from employees residing in metropolitan areas to those living in remote rural communities.
  • Consults and coordinates with other agency experts including industrial hygienists, physicians, environmental engineers, and fire prevention engineers in the resolution of difficult environmental hazards and the development of safety guidance and procedures.
Training, Other Qualifications, and Advancement

Technicians attend postsecondary school or enter the occupation through work experience and training. All occupational health and safety technicians are trained in the applicable laws or inspection procedures through some combination of classroom and on-the-job training.

Education and training. There are multiple paths to entry-level employment as an occupational health and safety technicians. Some technicians attend postsecondary school and typically earn an associate degree or certificate. Other technicians enter the occupation through work experience and training. In this case, an individual typically already works in the industry and may volunteer with their employer to take on health and safety responsibilities. These workers then usually receive on-the-job training coupled with some formal education. All occupational health and safety technicians are trained in the applicable laws or inspection procedures through some combination of classroom and on-the-job training.

Recommended high school courses include English, mathematics, chemistry, biology, and physics.

Certification and other qualifications. Although voluntary, many employers encourage credentialing. The Council on Certification of Health, Environmental, and Safety Technologists offers credentialing at the technician level. For specific requirements for each credential, contact the certifying body. Most certifications require completing periodic continuing education for recertification.

In general, people who want to enter this occupation should be responsible and like detailed work. Occupational health and safety technicians also should be able to communicate well.

Advancement. Occupational health and safety technicians who work for the Federal Government advance through their career ladder to a specified full-performance level if their work is satisfactory. For positions above this level, usually supervisory positions, advancement is competitive and based on agency needs and individual merit. Advancement opportunities in State and local governments and the private sector are often similar to those in the Federal Government.

Technicians with broad education and experience and those who are well versed in numerous business functions usually have the best advancement opportunities. One way to keep up with current professional developments is to join a professional society. These organizations offer journals, continuing education courses, and conferences that provide learning and networking opportunities and can help workers and students to advance.

With a bachelor’s or advanced degree, technicians can become occupational health and safety specialists.

Employment

Occupational health and safety technicians held about 10,900 jobs in 2008. While the majority of jobs were spread throughout the private sector, about 22 percent of technicians worked for government agencies.

Most private companies either employ their own occupational health and safety workers or contract with them. Most contract work is done through consulting companies.

In addition to working for governments, occupational health and safety technicians were employed in manufacturing firms; public and private hospitals; educational services; scientific and technical consulting services; administrative and support services; and support activity for mining.

Job Outlook

Occupational health and safety technicians held about 10,900 jobs in 2008. While the majority of jobs were spread throughout the private sector, about 22 percent of technicians worked for government agencies.

Most private companies either employ their own occupational health and safety workers or contract with them. Most contract work is done through consulting companies.

In addition to working for governments, occupational health and safety technicians were employed in manufacturing firms; public and private hospitals; educational services; scientific and technical consulting services; administrative and support services; and support activity for mining.

Earnings

Median annual wages of occupational health and safety technicians were $45,360 in May 2008. The middle 50 percent earned between $35,160 and $57,110. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $26,540, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $73,050. Median annual wages in the industries employing the largest numbers of occupational health and safety specialists and technicians in May 2008 were:

Support activities for mining $56,060
Local government 45,320
Colleges, universities, and professional schools 44,990
General medical and surgical hospitals 41,490
Management, scientific, and technical consulting 41,100

Most occupational health and safety technicians work in large private firms or for Federal, State, and local governments, most of which generally offer benefits more generous than those offered by smaller firms.


Sources of Additional Information

Information about jobs in Federal, State, and local governments and in private industry is available from State employment service offices.

For information on industrial hygiene, contact:

  • American Industrial Hygiene Association, 2700 Prosperity Ave., Suite 250, Fairfax, VA 22031. Internet: http://www.aiha.org

For more information on careers in safety and a list of safety and related academic programs, contact:

  • Board of Certified Safety Professionals, 208 Burwash Ave., Savoy, IL 61874. Internet: http://www.bcsp.org

For information on credentialing, contact:

  • Council on Certification of Health, Environmental, and Safety Technologists, 208 Burwash Ave., Savoy, IL 61874. Internet: http://www.cchest.org

For information on health physics, contact:

  • Health Physics Society, 1313 Dolley Madison Blvd., Suite 402, McLean, VA 22101. Internet: http://www.hps.org

For additional career information, contact:

  • U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Center for Disease Control and Prevention, National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health, 395 E Street SW., Suite 9200, Patriots Plaza Building, Washington, DC 20201. Internet: http://www.cdc.gov/niosh
  • U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Safety and Health Administration, Office of Communication, 200 Constitution Ave. NW., Washington, DC 20210. Internet: http://www.osha.gov

Information on obtaining Occupational Health and Safety Technician positions with the Federal Government is available from the Office of Personnel Management through USAJOBS, the Federal Government's official employment information system. This resource for locating and applying for job opportunities can be accessed through the Internet at http://www.usajobs.gov or through an interactive voice response telephone system at (703) 724–1850 or  (703) 724–1850  or TDD (978) 461–8404 and   (978) 461–8404. These numbers are not toll free, and charges may result. For advice on how to find and apply for Federal jobs, download the Insider's Guide to the Federal Hiring Process” online here.

Sources:

  • Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2010-11 Edition; and
  • Office of Personnel Management, Position Classification Standards.

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