Occupational health and safety technicians collect data on the safety and health conditions of the workplace. Technicians work with occupational health and safety specialists in conducting tests and measuring hazards to help prevent harm to workers, property, the environment, and the general public. For more information, see the profile on occupational health and safety specialists.
Occupational health and safety technicians typically do the following:
Technicians conduct tests and collect samples and measurements as part of workplace inspections. For example, they may collect and handle samples of dust, mold, gases, vapors, or other potentially hazardous materials. They conduct both routine inspections and special inspections that a specialist orders. For more information about specialists, see the profile on occupational health and safety specialists.
Technicians may examine and test machinery and equipment such as scaffolding and lifting devices to be sure that they meet appropriate safety regulations. They may check that workers are using protective gear, such as masks and hardhats, as regulations say they must.
Technicians also check that hazardous materials are stored correctly. They test and identify work areas for potential health and safety hazards.
In addition to making workers safer, technicians work with specialists to increase worker productivity by reducing the number of worker absences and equipment downtime. They save companies money by lowering insurance premiums and worker compensation payments and by preventing government fines.
Technicians’ duties vary based on where they are employed. For example, a technician may test the levels of biohazard at a waste processing plant or may inspect the lighting and ventilation in an office setting. Both of these inspections are focused on maintaining the health of the workers and the environment.
The responsibilities of occupational health and safety technicians vary by industry, workplace, and types of hazards affecting employees. The following are examples of types of occupational health and safety technicians:
Environmental protection technicians evaluate and coordinate the storage and handling of hazardous waste, the cleanup of contaminated soil or water, evaluation of air pollution, or other activities that affect the environment.
Health physics technicians work in places that use radiation and radioactive material. Their goal is to protect people and the environment from hazardous radiation exposure.
Industrial hygiene technicians examine the workplace for health hazards, such as exposure to lead, asbestos, pesticides, or contagious diseases.
Mine examiners inspect mines for proper air flow and health hazards such as the buildup of methane or other harmful gases.
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2012-13 Edition