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What are Some Environmental Health and Safety Professions?

Ken Black
Ken Black

Environmental health and safety professions are public and private employees who focus on health safety issues in public places, usually the workplace. Government jobs will focus on the regulatory aspect, and those with private companies will focus on consultation. In both cases, those in these professions will likely have a bachelor's degree in operational health or similar field.

In the United States, one of the most common employers is the federal government's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). These professionals are stationed around the country, working out of various offices. Most of those in environmental health and safety areas will do inspections of companies and recommend ways to make the environment safer for workers. These individuals will also have the power to levy fines for violations.

Businesswoman talking on a mobile phone
Businesswoman talking on a mobile phone

Some environmental health and safety professionals may specialize in investigations. If there is an accident at a facility that causes serious injury or death, those in environmental health and safety positions will be called in from OSHA to investigate. The investigator will examine the scene, consult with doctors, and interview witnesses. If there is any safety violation, the company will likely be fined and could be liable for civil penalties. Civil penalties will likely only be waged if the family or individual decides to bring a lawsuit against the company.

At a local or state health department, an environmental health and safety professional may take on the role of a health inspector or food inspector. These titles are often used interchangeably. The job of the inspector is to make sure businesses involved in food service or sales follow state and local regulations. For example, the inspectors may look at issues of cleanliness and serving conditions, such as cooking temperatures and temperatures for cold food service, such as salad bars.

An environmental health and safety professional may also work for an agricultural department. These individuals are often responsible for overseeing food processing in large plants. Unlike OSHA inspectors and food inspectors, these individuals will be on site nearly the entire time that production is taking place. The goal is to make sure there is less of a chance for contamination. Such a situation could cause illness in many different people and lead to mass recalls, an expensive situation both for the government and the company.

Environmental health and safety professionals working for private companies usually serve in safety consultant positions, which help companies figure out how to operate safely before OSHA arrives and levies fines. These individuals may be employed by the company they are helping, or may be part of a consulting firm that provides services to many different companies. Those working for consulting services will likely specialize in specific areas such as food service, industrial settings or medical settings.

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