Industrial Safety and Health Technicians
Technicians work for government agencies, mining operations, medical and surgical hospitals, as well as colleges and universities. They are employed in building construction, chemical manufacturing, and in waste management services. Technicians work for a wide variety of employers, large and small. At a large company, technicians are likely to be part of a large safety and health staff, with their own areas of specialization and responsibilities. At a small company, the safety and health staff may consist of just one or two technicians who assume full responsibility for the entire operation.
Most manufacturing companies have a safety officer, an industrial hygienist, or a safety engineer. In addition, many insurance companies have safety and health specialists on their staffs. Some industrial safety and health technicians work for OSHA or as instructors at community colleges.
Many graduates of industrial safety and health technology programs find their first jobs before graduation because recruiters visit schools with such programs. School career services counselors identify graduating students that may be interested in jobs in industrial safety so that recruiters can interview and sometimes even make job offers on the spot. Work study arrangements can also result in placements for students after graduation.
Another method of entering a technician career is by first working as an assistant to a safety engineer or a member of the industrial safety and health staff of a large company. After gaining some experience and making contacts in the industry, a more involved job in occupational safety may become available.
Some individuals who join industrial safety and health staffs have trained in specialized work, such as arc welding, machining, foundry work, or metal forming, all of which can be especially hazardous. These experienced workers have already learned safety and health principles while on the job. With additional study, these workers can become industrial safety and health technicians in their specific fields.
Advancement for industrial safety and health technicians usually results from formal training and continued study. Job experience and exceptional work performance may also lead to a promotion and more responsibility. Keeping abreast of developments and safety practices can help to reduce costs, increase productivity, and improve worker morale and company image. Technicians who help make such improvements in the workplace usually receive higher status and salary with time.
Safety technicians employed by large organizations with specialized departments can work in different areas of the safety system throughout the plant. After working at various assignments, they may advance to a supervisory position overseeing multiple departments or work areas.
After several years of experience and a good record of success, technicians can become specialized safety consultants or government inspectors. Some even become private consultants to insurance companies or small businesses. Many small companies cannot afford a full-time safety engineer and instead hire a consultant to set up an industrial safety and health plan. In such cases, the chief consultant responsible for the newly enacted plan may return periodically to check that all is working and suggest changes where needed. All of these advanced positions offer independence and financial rewards for successful and responsible industrial safety and health technicians.
Tips for Entry
In high school, talk to your career counselor and find out what industrial safety and health technicians do in the workplace.
Contact the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to organize an information interview with one of its technicians. Inquire about opportunities to possibly shadow a technician or visit a local OSHA office.
Join a professional organization, such as the American Society of Safety Professionals, to access resources, career information, and more.
Visit the following Web sites for job listings: