How to launch a Rewarding Career as a Health and Safety Professional or Inspector

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Protective Equipment

Becoming a health and safety inspector or general EHS Manager can be a rewarding career. Knowing that lives are dependent upon safe labor conditions in the workplace and safe conditions for the public in the marketplace makes your input a profitable venture. In addition, the salary that can be earned is attractive and well worth pursuing. Understanding the duties and qualifications of a health and safety professional is the first step in moving towards employment in the EHS compliance field.

The Duties of a Health and Safety Professional

The overall goal of a health and safety professional is to ensure that the workplace is free of hazards that could jeopardize the well-being of both workers and the general public. These specialists examine the equipment, floor surfaces, ventilation systems, lighting conditions, protective clothing, sanitation procedures, working processes and any other aspect of the job site that can pose a potential threat to health and safety. They identify hazards and collect samples of potentially harmful materials that may be present. The EHS person has the responsibility of knowing the legal codes and protocols that govern the welfare of the workplace and keeping up with changes.

In addition, the EHS professional become involved in developing measures to protect the health of the workers and minimize damage to the environment.  They also must investigate on-the-job accidents to determine the cause, conduct root cause analysis and propose a plan for avoiding the same problem in the future. Inspectors and managers often serve as speakers to provide safety training for work crews. These responsibilities may take the person into manufacturing plants, office settings, hospitals, mining sites or a host of other work environments.  Moving around the plant is most definitely a part of the typical work day.

The Qualifications of a Health and Safety Professional

Although qualifications may vary from region to region, most employers would prefer that their EHS experts hold a bachelor’s degree in occupational health and safety or environment; however, many people with an associate’s degree (or no degree at all) may find work with a certificate authenticating the completion of a training program.  Upon graduation from the bachelor’s program, EHS experts often receive much of their training on the job with little prior work experience. Certification in specialized areas is available if desired. In addition, various organizations may provide update training from time to time. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), for example, offers both 10-hour and 30-hour classes to keep inspectors and managers current on new regulations and procedures relating to the workplace. The profession is largely a “learn as you go” situation.  The various work venues determine the extent of the training and updates needed as the career progresses.

In addition to the training qualifications, there are a number of personal characteristics that an EHS professional should possess since the profession carries with it unique demands. Perhaps the most important characteristic needed in the inspection field is stamina, both physical and emotional. It probably goes without saying that many business owners and managers do not welcome the inspection and EHS management process with open arms! Sometimes the process itself initiates a defensive reaction, and relationships between the compliance and management can be strained. Good interpersonal communication skills on the part of the EHS manager can help alleviate much of the stress. Problem-solving skills, record-keeping skills, attention to detail and the ability to learn to use various pieces of technology are also key characteristics.

Further, the EHS professional is required to keep up with ever-changing regulations and procedures, which can be an overwhelming and time-consuming process. Fortunately, today’s technology has made that particular requirement as easy as the push of a button! Certain mobile applications (such as the Nimonik auditing app) contain a data bank of protocols for environmental, health and safety specs around the world. A professional with access to such an app will be way ahead of the game and will be spared hours of personal research.

Employment Statistics

Figures released as late as 2012 indicate that the health and safety inspection job market is expected to grow by approximately 7% in the next decade.  An average rate of compensation for EHS Manager is around $30.00 per hour, which translates to approximately $66,700.00 per year for full-time work.  Most inspection jobs are full-time positions, and work may include weekends and holidays when emergencies arise which demand on-the-spot investigation. In all, a career in health and safety inspection is easily attainable, profitable, and helpful to the security of the work force as a whole.