Pros and Cons of an Occupational Health and Safety Inspection Management Career
As an occupational health and safety inspection manager, you would enforce the OSH Act by overseeing workplace safety inspections. Keep reading to find out more pros and cons for this career.
|Pros of an Occupational Health and Safety Inspection Management Career|
|Job growth due to retirements and increased use of nuclear power (7% growth for all occupational health and safety specialists between 2012-2022)*|
|Personal and professional satisfaction of keeping workers and work sites safe*|
|Variety of employers and places to work (government, private sector, labs, mines)*|
|Opportunities to specialize in one area, such as ergonomics, environmental hazards or insurance issues*|
|Cons of an Occupational Health and Safety Inspection Management Career|
|Inspecting hazardous workplaces may be dangerous***|
|May face confrontation when conducting inspections or enforcing regulations**|
|Need to keep up with changing laws and inspection procedures*|
|May be on call 24 hours a day***|
Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Safety and Health Administration, ***U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM).
Inspection managers design, implement and monitor workplace safety and health practices and procedures for a company. They may also supervise health and safety technicians who are testing air, machines, water and other elements of a working environment. In addition to ensuring safe conditions for workers, inspection managers aim to increase worker output by reducing absenteeism and equipment breakdowns.
Some inspection managers work for government agencies, such as the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), and conduct safety inspections and impose fines for violations. A health and safety inspection manager may be called upon to analyze work environments and design programs to control or eliminate disease or injury. They also look for physical, radiological and biological dangers. Making sure that workers have ergonomically compatible equipment to increase comfort and decrease injury and fatigue is also their responsibility.
Occupational health and safety inspection managers may specialize in one type of inspection. For example, ergonomists specialize in ensuring that an employee's required job activities will not cause a musculoskeletal disorder. An ergonomic inspector may inspect workplace equipment for comfort and safety, and will also inspect a workers activity to ensure that the intensity, frequency and duration of the activity won't cause harm.
Other specializations include environmental protection officers who test the air, water and soil for contamination that might cause illness. Health physicists ensure that workers and the public are protected from radiation exposure. Industrial hygienists are responsible discovering any workplace health hazards, such as asbestos or lead. Insurance loss-prevention specialists inspect workplaces to locate and fix potential health and safety issues with the goal of preventing insurance claims or lawsuits from being filed by employees.
Job Prospects and Salary
Although specific employment outlook statistics are unavailable for inspection managers, data is available for occupational health and safety specialists. Specialists are nonsupervisory employees who inspect and evaluate safety conditions in the workplace and are classified with OHS managers by the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM). Specialists were expected to grow at a slower-than-average rate of 7% from 2012-2022, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), but public demand for healthy and safe work places is likely to keep job growth steady.
Manager job growth may be impacted by the need for competent managers to supervise technologists, and the potential need for additional manpower to deal with technological advances in safety equipment, threats and changing regulations. OHS professionals who work in the private sector may be impacted by downturns in the national economy more than those who work in government positions.
Government specialists, according to the OPM, fall into lower paid grades than managers. Government safety and occupational health managers, according to the government's 2012 general schedule 15-level pay grade system, fall into the $93,000-$156,000 salary range, although this varies by location. PayScale.com reported in 2015 that most occupational health and safety managers, including government and private sector managers, made between $45,000 and $108,000 annually.
Education and Training Requirements
Occupational health and safety inspection managers are typically required to have a minimum of a bachelor's degree in occupational health or a related field, such as industrial hygiene, and experience in occupational health and safety. Some jobs require specific certifications based on job duties. For example, if you are inspecting hazardous materials facilities, you might be required to have an OSHA hazardous materials certification. Those applying to work in occupational health and safety management in the federal government may be able to use professional certification in place of specialized experience, according the OPM.
Education programs specific to occupational health and safety cover topics in general workplace safety, workers compensation, electrical safety, mine safety and wellness programs. Technical skills required for the job are often specific to the type of inspection you manage. For example, if you are managing mine inspections, you might need experience as a miner, according to the OPM. General skills required for the job, according to the BLS and O*Net OnLine, include:
- Good oral and written communication
- Ability to analyze and evaluate hazardous situations
- Observation and information gathering skills
- Sound judgment
- Decision-making skills
What Employers Are Looking for
Requirements for jobs in occupational health and safety vary by industry. According to O*Net OnLine, government and manufacturing industries were top industries for hiring occupational health and safety specialists in 2010. No matter the industry, employers require experience in occupational health and safety. Below are some real job postings open during March 2012.
- An industrial company that specializes in equipment installations in North Carolina is looking for an environmental health and safety manager with a bachelor's degree and eight years of experience implementing safety programs. OSHA train-the-trainer and Certified Safety Professional credentials are preferred.
- A government contractor in Maryland is hiring an environmental safety and health supervisor to implement safety programs. A bachelor's degree and at least two years of supervisory experience is required.
- The U.S. government is advertising for an occupational safety and health professional who has disaster safety operations experience to manage worksite inspection programs. This job is located in Texas and may require emergency related travel.
- An agricultural manufacturing company in Kansas is hiring an environmental health and safety manager to ensure the company complies with all state and federal safety regulations. The company says that it prefers 3-5 years of experience and a degree, preferably in occupational health and safety.
How to Stand out in the Field
Beyond the typical minimum requirements (an undergraduate degree and 1-2 years of experience), many employers state in their job ads that they prefer additional qualifications. For example, they may want to see a specialized degree in occupational health and safety or industrial hygiene. Also, most ads state a preference for managers with at least five years of experience in the field of occupational health and safety. Possessing the preferred qualifications of a specialized degree and at least five years of experience in the field may help you stand out.
Certifications in occupational health and safety are typically voluntary, according to the BLS, and sometimes preferred by employers. Certifications are available in general occupational health and safety and in very specific occupational subjects, like hazardous materials. In some cases, you'll need to take an exam and provide proof of education and experience in the field. Some certification options include:
- Certified Safety Professional from the Board of Certified Safety Professionals
- Certified Health Physicist from the American Board of Health Physics
- Certified Industrial Hygienist from the American Board of Industrial Hygiene
- Occupational Health and Safety Technologist from the Board of Certified Safety Professionals
Other Careers to Consider
If you are interested in keeping workplaces safe, but you don't want to go into management, there are other career options in the occupational safety field. You could work as an OHS technician and be part of a technical team that tests and analyzes work areas to ensure that they are free from hazards. This job may only require an associate's degree or on-the-job training. Technician job growth was predicted by the BLS to be 13% from 2010-2020. In 2011, the BLS reported that occupational health and safety technicians made a median salary of around $46,000 a year.
If you want to work in OHS, but you don't want managerial or technical duties, you might consider becoming a health and safety training specialist. As a trainer, you would develop plans to train employees in workplace safety matters. You can become an authorized OSHA outreach trainer by completing coursework and applying to OSHA. According to the BLS, human resources specialists, which include training specialists, made a median annual salary of about $56,000 in 2011 and had an expected job growth rate from 2010-2020 of 21%.
If you like the responsibilities of management, but you would rather implement safety practices instead of review or inspect them, you could be a facilities manager. As a facilities manager, you oversee the maintenance and construction of facilities, including keeping your building free from hazards. You'll need about the same amount of education and experience as an occupational health and safety inspection manager. This occupation, along with other administrative service managers, was expected to grow 15% from 2010-2020, according to the BLS. The BLS reported that facilities managers and other administrative services managers, made a median salary of around $80,000 in 2011.