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 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 usually is required to familiarize the technician with specific work environments.
Technicians usually receive on-the-job training. They learn about specific laws and inspection procedures, and learn to conduct tests and recognize hazards. The length of training varies with the employee's level of experience, education, and industry in which he or she works.
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. For example, an employee may volunteer to complete annual workstation inspections for an office in which he or she already works.
Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations
Certification is not required for someone to become an occupational health and safety technician; however, many employers encourage it.
To apply for certification, technicians must have earned a high school diploma, possess 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:
The Construction Health and Safety Technician (CHST)Certificationrequires the applicant to have specific education or experience in construction safety. These technicians protect workers on construction sites from injury or illness.
The Occupational Health and Safety Technologist (OHST) Certificationis designed for workers who perform occupational health and safety tasks full or part time as part of their job duties.
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 follow safety standards and complex government regulations.
Physical stamina. Occupational health and safety technicians must be able to stay on their feet for long periods and travel on a regular basis.
Problem-solving skills. Occupational health and safety technicians must be able to solve problems in order to assist specialists in protecting workers from hazardous work conditions.