A Career in Occupational Health: Options and Requirements

Jobs in Occupational Health, centre largely around ensuring that the working environments are healthy for the workforce. Now in order to ensure the overall physical and mental well-being of the working environment – occupational health professionals conduct workplace inspections. The specialists who lead the said investigations, are tasked with telling the management about violations and can also suspend businesses if they’re found guilty of serious violations. Thus, occupational health jobs, come with a sense of ethical responsibility that the professionals are expected to abide by.

Essential Information Regarding Occupational Health Jobs:

Occupational health staffing is required in both public and private sectors in order to ensure safety and productivity of the working environments. Occupational health vacancies can be found in various setups like offices, construction sites, factories, mines etc. The career options available in these sectors means either becoming a technician or a specialist in a broader sense. The basic difference between the two occupational health jobs is that specialists are required to obtain a minimum educational qualification of a Bachelor’s degree in the relevant field, while the technicians are not. The minimum qualification for occupational health vacancies for technicians, require a high school diploma.

Coming to the scope of work for jobs in occupational health. Let us begin with the specialists first:

Occupational Health Specialists:

Their Job Duties:

Occupational health specialists, carry out inspections of work environments and notify the management if they feel there are any violations being committed. The specialists are obligated to issue suspension orders to employers if they observe that the violations have not been corrected in a timely manner, which can put the workforce at serious risks. Occupational health specialists also recommend actions in order to rectify any hazardous or potentially hazardous situation, that they might’ve observed during their inspections.

Another part of occupational health jobs is designing works spaces, methods and programs, that can help prevent any injury or illness for the workforce. Other point of concern includes maintaining good air-quality, which is an essential aspect of overall well-being for the employees. If at a workplace, there seems to be an emerging pattern of illnesses, injuries or absenteeism, occupational health specialists will be called in to commence their investigations.

A specialist will conduct educational training programs as well, to show the employees how to use and dispose of hazardous chemicals, handle an emergency situation or perform any other necessary safety procedure. And in cases when the situation demands it, an occupational health specialist is required to collect samples of potentially harmful substances like gas and dust, in order to get their toxicity levels, tested.

Coming now to the other sector of Occupational Health Staffing – the occupational health technician.

Occupational Health Technicians

Their Job Duties:

Occupational health technicians work alongside occupational health specialists to ensure that a work environment is safe and healthy for the workforce. These professionals, are concerned mostly with the record-keeping aspect of the occupational health jobs, and generally take notes regarding the work condition of the workspace – like how the materials are stored, air quality, general health standards and precautions regarding physical and mental wellness of the workforce etc. They generally report back to the occupational health specialist, for all further evaluations.

A technician will generally conduct a health surveillance of the workplace. This includes tasks like face-first testing, drug and alcohol testing, biological surveillance etc. Mostly sample collection and testing aspect of occupational health jobs are done by a technician, so that they can test and identify work areas for any potential health and safety hazards.

In addition to maintaining employee health, technicians work with specialists, to help in increasing worker productivity by reducing the number of absences that workers take. These actions can actually help companies save money, by lowering insurance premiums, compensation pay for workers, prevention of government fines etc.

Although occupational health jobs for specialists, is generally concerned with work regarding the maintenance of the health of the worker as well as the environment, their actual responsibilities vary by workplace, industry, the kinds of hazards affecting the employees etc. To cite a relatable example for this, at one site a technician’s work might be testing the levels of hazards associated with a waste processing plant, while on another site, it may be inspecting the light and ventilation in an office building. Though the nature of inspections might be different, both of them are focused on maintaining the health of the workforce and the environment.

Requirements for Occupational Health Jobs:

 

Education Requirements for Occupational Health Specialists:

For most occupational health specialists, a Bachelor’s degree in an occupational health-related field is a must. In certain industries, occupational health jobs might require a master’s degree in health physics, industrial health etc. Some of the standard coursework that these degrees will entail include classes such as

  • Hazardous Materials
  • Chemistry
  • Toxicology
  • Industrial Accident Standards
  • Fire Prevention

Apart from this practical experience is required as well for specialists. Hence, while pursuing their college degrees, a lot of occupational health students apply for internships to gain-on site training and experience.

Educational Requirements for Occupational Health Technicians:

 

Generally, an associate’s degree is sufficient to gain an entry-level position as an occupational health technician. For some, the position might be acquired through work experience and then further advancement. For an aspiring occupational health technician classes may include coursework on

  • Incident investigation
  • Industrial sanitation
  • Industrial protection
  • Ergonomics
  • Safety management and training

Certification for Jobs in Occupational Health:

Certification is voluntary for occupational health specialists and technicians, though generally recommended by quite a few employers. In order to show proficiency in a particular field certification is appreciated – since it goes on to show that the individual has met a certain standard of education and skill criteria and has passed, rigorous and scrupulous testing which meets the approval of top health and safety professionals.

As the role of occupational health services is to ensure that a safe work environment protects and sustains the health of workers, more and more businesses today are understanding their relevance. This means that the scope for jobs in occupational health is widening with time, which will surely create better opportunities for both occupational health specialists and technicians.

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