How to Become an Occupational Health and Safety Technician
Technicians carry out and evaluate programs on workplace safety and health.
Occupational health and safety technicians typically enter the occupation through one of two paths. Some technicians learn through on-the-job training; others enter with postsecondary education such as an associate’s degree or certificate.
Employers typically require technicians to have at least a high school diploma. High school students interested in this occupation should complete courses in English, mathematics, chemistry, biology, and physics.
Some employers may prefer to hire technicians who have earned an associate’s degree or certificate from a community college or vocational school. These programs typically take 2 years or less. They include courses in respiratory protection, hazard communication, and material handling and storage procedures.
Postsecondary programs include instruction on standard laws and procedures; however, some on-the-job training is usually required to familiarize the technician with specific work environments.
Occupational health and safety technicians can become occupational health and safety specialists by earning a bachelor’s or advanced degree.
Technicians usually receive on-the-job training. They learn about specific laws, inspection procedures, conducting tests, and recognizing hazards. The length of training varies with the employee’s level of experience, education, and the industry where they work.
Some technicians enter the occupation through a combination of related work experience and training. They may take on health and safety tasks at the company where they are employed at the time. For example, an employee may volunteer to complete annual workstation inspections for an office where they already work.
Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations
Certification is not required to become an occupational health and safety technician; however, many employers encourage it.
To apply for certification, technicians must have a high school diploma, related on-the-job experience, and pass a standardized health and safety exam. The Board of Certified Safety Professionals (BCSP) offers the following certifications at the technician level:
Construction Health and Safety Technician Certification (CHST) requires the applicant to have specific education or experience in construction safety. These technicians protect workers on construction sites from injury or illness.
Occupational Health and Safety Technologist Certification (OHST) is designed for workers who perform occupational health and safety tasks full- or part-time as part of their job duties.
Safety Trained Supervisor (STS) certification is geared toward first-line supervisors or managers. These workers are not safety practitioners but take on the certification in addition to their other job duties. This certification requires 1 year of supervisory experience.
Ability to use technology. Occupational health and safety technicians often work with computers and complex testing equipment.
Communication skills. Occupational health and safety technicians must be able to work with specialists to collect and test samples of possible hazards, such as dust or vapors, in the workplace.
Detail oriented. Occupational health and safety technicians must be able to understand and adhere to specific safety standards and government regulations.
Physical stamina. Occupational health and safety technicians must be able to stay on their feet for long periods of time and to travel on a regular basis.
Problem-solving skills. Occupational health and safety technicians must be able to use their skills to find solutions to unsafe working conditions and environmental concerns in the workplace.