Occupational Health and Safety Specialist  What They Do

Just the Facts

Occupational Health and Safety Specialists Career Video

Insider Info

dotSafety supervisors have an eagle eye for hazards in the workplace and other areas. They spot potential accident sites and fix them. They teach others to reduce their safety risks.

You'll find safety supervisors working in schools, government buildings, hospitals and large corporations.

dotA safety supervisor is usually a scientist, an engineer or a health professional with training or experience in occupational health and safety.

In addition to looking out for potential hazards, safety supervisors monitor the work of waste management specialists, hazardous materials personnel, fire safety officers, industrial hygiene workers and ergonomics specialists.

dotSafety supervisors also have the important task of communicating the importance of safety to others. This is often a difficult task in a world where we only think about safety after something goes wrong.

"People tend to think I overreact about things because accidents are always things that happen in other companies," says safety supervisor Colin Johnson, who works in a manufacturing plant.

dotThe specific duties of a safety supervisor vary from one job to the next, but in general a safety supervisor is always on the lookout for anything that might cause an accident. After a few years on the job, they start to see things differently than most people.

"You notice burned out light bulbs, missing bricks on walkways, things blocking stairwells -- it just gets built into you. I'm always on the lookout for these things, no matter where I am," says Dave Dietsch, safety supervisor for the University of Maryland in Baltimore.

dotFor the most part, a safety supervisor can expect to work a standard 40-hour week, but there's very little time spent behind a desk. They're on their feet a lot, supervising others, checking buildings, meeting with administration and management and even traveling to other locations.

dotPart of the nature of the job involves dealing with dangerous situations and hazardous materials. While safety supervisors aren't necessarily working directly in dangerous situations, they should expect to be subjected to dangerous conditions.

dotWith lawsuits on the increase and government legislation becoming stricter, their jobs are becoming more important and more complex. In fact, safety supervisors are a crucial part of any large company or institution.

"My department is sometimes called risk management because I minimize the risks associated with doing business today," says Johnson.

Just the Facts

Want a quick overview of what this career is about?Check out Just the Facts for simple lists of characteristics.

At a Glance

Prevent workplace injuries

  • Technology is presenting unique safety issues
  • You need an eagle eye for hazards
  • A degree in engineering, health or sciences is recommended