Occupational safety managers inspect workplaces to ensure that employees are working under safe conditions. Occupational safety managers routinely examine facilities and equipment to make sure that everything is running smoothly and safely. They may perform their inspections at mines, construction sites, factories, office buildings, restaurants, or any number of other work settings. Occupational safety managers often focus on implementing new equipment and strategies to increase safety and comfort in workplaces. Additionally, they assess the likelihood of accidents based on statistics and introduce preventative measures to lower risks.
Occupational safety managers also conduct training courses to teach company managers and employees how to keep the workplace clean and safe, perform maintenance, and report unsafe conditions.
Occupational safety managers are responsible for making detailed observations of working conditions and prescribing prompt action when they discover problems or potentially hazardous situations. Occupational safety managers who work for the government issue fines when an establishment does not meet health and safety codes. They suggest what needs to be changed in order to fix problems and avoid future hazards. Occupational safety managers who work for private firms typically focus on developing and promoting safety strategies. An occupational safety manager must have a keen eye for detail, an extensive knowledge of safety measures, problem solving skills, and the ability to write and speak clearly. Specific responsibilities can vary widely between industries and employers.
There are three academic paths to becoming an occupational safety manager: a master’s degree in industrial hygiene, a bachelor’s degree in occupational health and safety, and an associate degree program. After graduating from one of these programs, individuals may choose to obtain certification from a respected occupational health and safety board, though certification is not always required for employment.
The differences between these three educational paths are as follows:
Master’s programs in industrial hygiene and related subjects are offered by colleges and universities and take about six years to complete.
Bachelor’s programs in occupational health and safety are offered by colleges, universities, and some community colleges, and usually take four years to complete.
Associate programs are offered by community colleges, junior colleges, technical schools, and accredited online schools, and typically take about one year to complete.
Areas of Specialization
Occupational safety managers can specialize in three different areas. It is possible to combine specialties, such as ergonomists who choose to work specifically with office employees. The three means of specialization are:
- By work setting, such as factory, mine, or office specialists.
- By specific focus, such as testing air quality versus inspecting machinery.
- By working primarily with people or with equipment.
Below are general job categories for occupational safety managers:
- Governmental occupational safety managers, who are employed by local, state, or national government agencies to perform detailed safety inspections and impose fines when necessary
- Contracted occupational safety specialists, who are hired by companies to perform safety inspections and offer suggestions on how to improve employee safety and health.
- Ergonomists, who focus on implementing comfortable, safe equipment as well as teaching different techniques to maximize comfort and prevent injury.
- Loss prevention specialists, who work for insurance companies to assess and improve the safety of establishments insured by their companies.
- Environmental protection managers, who evaluate the handling and disposal of nuclear waste and other harmful environmental contaminants.
There are many career opportunities for qualified occupational safety managers. The list below includes some of the potential professional paths.
Construction Health and Safety Manger
Environmental Protection Officer
Environmental Safety Manager
Health and Safety Inspector
Indoor Environmental Health Inspector
Industrial Health Specialist
Loss Prevention Specialist
Occupational Health and Safety Technician
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), median annual earnings of occupational safety managers were $54,920 in May 2006. The middle 50 percent of occupational safety managers earned between $41,800 and $70,230. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $32,230, while the highest 10 percent received earnings of more than $83,720. The median annual earnings of occupational safety managers in specific industries in May 2006 were:
- Federal government: $68,890
- Management, scientific, and technical consulting services: $63,130
- General medical and surgical hospitals: $59,200
- Local government: $52,110
- State government: $49,690
There are several professional organizations dedicated to occupational health and safety. These organizations provide useful information to practicing and aspiring occupational safety managers.
ABIH – American Board of Industrial Hygiene
BCSP – The Board of Certified Safety Professionals
NASP – National Association of Safety Professionals
OSH – Occupational Safety and Health Network
OSHA – Occupational Safety and Health Administration