Occupational health and safety professionals work to prevent injuries, accidents, and health hazards in the workplace. Many occupational health jobs require professionals to perform health inspections at factories, mines, construction sites, and other work settings. Occupational health doctors and nurses treat work-related health issues and assess how future problems may be avoided. Many other professionals are employed in highly specialized occupational health jobs.
Most occupational health jobs are held by inspectors and technicians, who carefully examine job sites to detect potentially dangerous situations. They often assess machinery, protective equipment, air quality, and the general working conditions at a facility. Inspectors create detailed reports about unsafe or unhealthy practices and offer suggestions to companies on how to fix them. In the United States, inspectors and technicians employed by the government can issue fines when a facility does not meet health standards established by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). Most countries have government organizations similar to OSHA which are responsible for establishing health guidelines and hiring inspectors to enforce health codes.
Occupational health doctors and nurses are specially trained to treat injuries and illnesses common in certain professions, including miners and factory workers. In addition to providing direct care, occupational health doctors and nurses offer advice on how to prevent future incidents. For example, a nurse who notices that several factory employees have respiratory troubles may encourage them to wear protective masks until the air quality improves. The nurse may even visit the factory to personally assess the air quality and offer further suggestions on how to improve working conditions.
Some occupational health jobs require very specific knowledge and training. Ergonomics experts develop occupational equipment and furniture which eases strain on workers and helps to prevent accidents and injuries. Environmental protection officers detect contaminants in soil, water, and air samples, as well as supervise the handling of hazardous waste materials. Loss prevention specialists, who work for insurance companies, inspect insured buildings and suggest ways to better protect workers and property.
The educational requirements for the different occupational health jobs vary based on areas of specialty. Inspectors and technicians are usually required to have at least a bachelor's degree in occupational health and safety, though some employers require a master's degree. Occupational health nurses and doctors must follow the same educational paths required of all doctors and nurses, in addition to obtaining special occupational health licensing and certification. Specialists must typically receive either a bachelor's or master's degree in occupational health as well as formal training in their fields.