Occupational Safety Technician Careers: Salary & Job Description

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An occupational safety technician earns an average salary of roughly $51,000, but is it worth all the education and training requirements? See real job duties and get the truth about career outlook to find out if an occupational safety technician career is right for you.
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Pros and Cons of an Occupational Safety Technician Career

An occupational safety technician checks a workplace environment to see if there are any health hazards. Take a look at the following pros and cons to see if this career is right for you.

Pros of Being an Occupational Safety Technician
Projected 11% employment growth from 2012-2022**
Promotes safety and health in a workplace*
Allows for independent working-style*
Mobile and social work environment*

Cons of Being an Occupation Safety Technician
Relative independence requires self-management*
Exposure to environmental hazards**
May need to work weekends and on an emergency basis**
Some travel and fieldwork may be burdensome**

Sources: *O*Net, **U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Essential Career Information

Job Duties

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), an occupational safety technician assesses an environment, mostly in a workplace, and determines if it could be harmful to human health, private property or the environment (www.bls.gov). The job of these technicians is to work with a specialist and measure the environmental health of a workplace. The BLS states that most occupational safety technicians work directly for private companies, such as safety firms, while others are government workers who check on enforceable regulations in the workplace.

A technician may assess the air quality, water supply or type of machines used in a workspace and also assess how workers use them. In addition, O*Net OnLine states that occupational safety technicians observe and test for chemical or biological agents in the area and determine if there are any immune or mental health compromising variables, such as loud noise or unsanitary conditions (www.onetonline.org). In addition, all federal or state workplace safety licenses are reviewed to make sure the workplace is up to code.

Job Prospects and Salary

The BLS projects that, between 2012-2022, there will be an 11% increase in employment opportunities. New regulations and new technology consistently alter work environments, requiring new occupational safety technicians to meet the demand of workplace assessments. Also, to increase efficiency, the BLS predicts that many safety firms will consolidate responsibilities away from specialists to technicians. However, the relative health of certain industries, such as manufacturing, can alter safety technician employment negatively if there is a radical downturn over this decade.

The average salary of an occupational safety technician was about $51,000 in 2014, according to the BLS. The top-earning tenth percentile of technicians earned $77,000 or more, while the bottom-earning tenth percentile earned about $30,000.

What Are the Requirements?

Education Requirements

Occupational safety technicians can enroll in academic programs that cater to the profession. According to the BLS, an associate's degree or a certificate may be sufficient for employment. However, for advanced positions, a bachelor's degree might be preferred.

What Do Employers Look for?

Judging from recent job postings, many employers desire an occupational safety technician that is willing to travel to different work-sites across a region. Certification and academic requirements are also important for these employers, as well as the ability to work with people who are not only in different industries but also different departments within a business. Some recent March 2012 job postings include:

  • An automotive manufacturing company in Tennessee needs a health and safety technician who advises the human resources department over personnel concerns. Applicants must hold a bachelor's degree and two years of experience or an equivalent combination. Ten hours of occupational safety education, especially in blood-borne illnesses and confined-space health issues, was also required. Being available every hour of everyday with some nursing and first aid experience or knowledge is preferable.
  • A Memphis chemical company needs a consultant in safety and occupational health that will analyze the industrial space for worker and contractor safety. The consultant needs to communicate concerns with management and directly teach contractors about workplace safety. Applicants should have a bachelor's degree, five years of experience and a certification in industrial hygiene or as a safety professional.
  • A Washington, D.C., resources firm needs an industrial hygiene technician to help metropolitan businesses with occupational safety issues. The candidate should have a bachelor's degree and 1-5 years of experience. The main responsibilities are to analyze any workplace and to make suggestions for the businesses.

How to Maximize Your Skills

Volunteer and training opportunities in the workplace are one way to become accustomed to occupational safety duties. The BLS explains that many workplaces offer work-training opportunities where you can learn about health and safety concerns in the work environment. After some years of experience and a sufficient education, you may stand out from a job applicant pool.

Another way to stand out is to gain certification. According to the BLS, certification is optional and depends on the specific employer. The Board of Certified Safety Professionals (BCSP) the Occupational Health and Safety Technologist (OHST) credential. To qualify for the credential, you'll need five years of professional experience and an associate's or bachelor's degree in health and safety (www.bcsp.org).

Other Careers to Consider

If you're looking for a job that has better employment prospects and offers a higher salary, you might consider being a building inspector. They investigate any new construction site or remodeling project to make sure all federal and state safety codes are being enforced. Common tasks include checking the infrastructure and frames of the building to make sure it is safe to work in, analyzing unique features of the home for damage and making sure dangers like electricity or plumbing do not hinder the building project. According to the BLS, building inspectors often have travel demands, on-site visits and overtime hours. Jobs in this field were expected to grow 18% from 2010-2020, and the median salary for building inspectors in 2011 was $53,000.

If you'd like a career where you can be more directly involved with the investigative process, you could think about becoming a fire inspector. They inspect commercial and residential buildings to make sure that the buildings are up to fire protection codes. Fire inspectors check to see that all buildings contain appropriate fire prevention and warning measures, such as smoke alarms, fire extinguishers and emergency escape maps. Fire inspectors are also called to analyze the scene of a fire to determine what caused the fire and the extent of damage. Unlike occupational safety technicians, most fire inspectors work for the government and need to wear heavy uniforms at the scene of a fire. In addition, fire inspectors generally work less than forty-hours a week, but they may need to work weekends and holidays. The BLS reports that fire inspectors earned a median salary of $53,000 in 2011.

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