Health and safety professionals assist employers in maintaining a safe workplace and managing environmental issues. They look carefully for practices that may cause harm to employees, property, the environment, or the general public and provide advice on changes that will reduce the chances of adverse incidents that harm the environment or injure a colleague.
Typical career areas in chemical safety
- Occupational health and safety technicians; collect samples, take measurements and conduct routine tests either for routine workplace inspections or as directed by an occupational health and safety specialist. Specialists then analyze the data and overall work environment, and design and/or revise processes and procedures to
reduce or eliminate the chance of harm to workers or to the environment. Technicians also work under the supervision of specialists to help implement and evaluate safety programs.
- Environmental health and safety professionals; focus on reducing the risk of people developing chemical-related illnesses associated with potentially hazardous chemicals, including lead, asbestos, noise, pesticides, and more. Unwanted effects could include systemic diseases such as topical or respiratory effects, cancer, or reproductive effects.
- A chemical hygiene officer is a specialist focused on a single OSHA standard—the Laboratory Standard, which applies only to chemical exposure in laboratories.
- Health physicists; work in laboratories, hospitals, and other places that use radioactive materials, radiation machines, and lasers. They protect both people and the environment from unwanted exposure to ionizing and non-ionizing radiation.
- Other members of EH&S departments may conduct laboratory inspections, manage the collection and disposal of hazardous waste, assess the accuracy of chemical inventories, manage emergency responses, and more. They all act as advisors to the employer, making recommendations that enhance the safety of the workplace, resulting in increased productivity, improved morale among employees, and ultimately lower workman’s compensation and liability costs.
Typical Work Duties
- Inspect machinery, facilities, laboratories and equipment to identify potential chemical, physical, biological or radiological hazards.
- Collect and analyze samples to monitor workplace occupational exposure levels.
- Attend continuing education classes to stay current on changing regulations.
- Recommend, develop and deliver safety training for employees.
- Monitor compliance with, and effectiveness of, existing policies and procedures.
- Recommend improvements to workplace procedures and employee safety and awareness programs.
- Investigate accidents to determine their cause, and identify preventative mechanisms.
- Data collection and analysis using computers and sophisticated testing equipment.
- Detail-oriented, to make sure everything is collected and reported accurately.
- Creativity and problem-solving skills to create safe and productive work environments.
- Negotiating skills to get all interested parties to agree on workable solutions.
- Physical stamina for plant tours and data collection in all sorts of environments.
- Continuous learning, to keep up on changing regulations and advances in ergonomics, biological effects, and more.
- Oral and written communication skills to convey findings and recommendations.
New health and safety professionals generally work under more experienced workers and mainly collect data. As their knowledge and expertise increases, they move into more difficult projects with greater independence, which may require an advanced degree. Those who start out in the field with an advanced degree will progress faster.
Original content at acs.org