Occupational health and safety (OHS) is a fast-growing field in Canada. Long before Covid-19 pushed workplace safety into the spotlight, we have been striving to reduce work-related accidents, injuries, and deaths.
This is what OHS is all about: protecting the physical and psychological wellness of people at work.
Ontario has clearly defined occupational health and safety laws—regulations both business owners and employees must follow.
Unfortunately, not all employers and workers understand or comply with these rules.
This is why skilled health and safety officers are in such high demand. These professionals ensure companies are following the law, and they provide training and strategies to improve workplace safety.
Considering a career in OHS? Her are the steps to become a certified occupational health and safety officer, plus helpful information on skills and careers.
What is your Role as a Health and Safety Officer?
Occupational health and safety officers play a key role in enforcing OHS regulations. They help develop workplace safety procedures, provide training, and investigate accidents.
Typical responsibilities for health and safety officers include:
☑️ Inspect workplaces for potential hazards
☑️ Follow up on Worker Compensation claims
☑️ Deliver safety orientation and training sessions
☑️ Investigate concerns or complaints from workers
☑️ Ensure health and safety regulations are being followed
☑️ Help coordinate return-to-work programs
☑️ Document OHS procedures
Health and safety officer is an entry-level role. Working in this position will give you a solid foundation in workplace safety, which you can use to move up into a more senior or specialized role.
A few years of work experience as a safety officer will also help you qualify for certification (more on that later in the post).
Health and Safety Officer Training Programs
To become a certified occupational health and safety officer in Ontario, you need some form of post-secondary education.
A Bachelor degree is not always required. Many employers will accept a diploma or certificate in occupational health and safety.
Ontario health and safety diplomas are typically between 1-2 years long. Herzing College Ottawa offers an accelerated 12-month Occupational Health and Safety diploma, which includes an 8-week internship.
You can expect to learn all the key aspects of workplace OHS, including:
☑️ Ontario health and safety laws
☑️ How to conduct safety inspections and identify hazards
☑️ How to develop a workplace safety plan
☑️ How to assess risks and create emergency response procedures
☑️ How to deliver training programs
☑️ How to promote physical, mental, and emotional wellness in the workplace
☑️ How to manage Workers’ Compensation claims
We recommend choosing an Occupational Health and Safety program that is approved by the Board of Canadian Registered Safety Professionals (BCRSP).
The BCRSP is an internationally recognized not-for-profit association that certifies OHS professionals across the country.
Graduating from a BCRSP-approved training program makes it easier to become a certified occupational health and safety officer.
Health and Safety Certifications in Canada
The BCRSP offers two certifications for occupational health and safety officers. The first is an entry-level certification called the Certified Registered Safety Technician.
Students in approved training programs can challenge the CRST certification exam immediately after graduation.
After gaining 4 years of work experience as a health and safety officer, you can challenge the next level of certification, called the Certified Registered Safety Professional (CRSP).
These certifications can increase your earning potential and help you qualify for more advanced OHS positions.
In 2019, the BCRSP surveyed CRSPs across Canada, and found that over half earned more than $100,000 per year. The median salary for CRSPs is $80,000 per year.
Meanwhile, 70% of employers list the CRSP as a requirement for a professional position in Health and Safety.
Learn more about OHS certifications here: 4 Popular Health & Safety Certifications for People Without Degrees
Key Skills for Occupational Health and Safety Officers
It takes a specific skillset to become a successful occupational health and safety officer. Understanding OHS laws and workplace safety procedures is just the beginning.
Several 'soft' skills play a key part in this role, including communication, organization, persuasion, and a genuine desire to help others. Are you a good fit?
OHS expert and instructor, Andrew Pugachev describes how challenging this work can be, and shares the following advice:
"Health and safety officers must be great communicators and not shy. You must be driven to help people, and train/educate them with clarity and conciseness.
Any successful health and safety program must be carefully scheduled, so you need to be well-organized.
And always remember, no matter how much you think you know, there’s always more. So learn to listen early and often to anyone with something valuable to add.
Management and workers are often reluctant to accept change. You need to use the right approach to get them on board, and get things done."
Occupational Health and Safety Jobs
Health and safety officer is a typical, entry-level job in the OHS field. Every year, several Herzing OHS graduates get hired straight out of their internships into safety officer positions.
In this role, you will be reporting to a health and safety supervisor or manager.
Health and safety officers get to participate in several areas of OHS, including training, enforcing safe work policies, developing new procedures, and following up on claims and complaints.
Health and safety officers are employed by organizations in the public and private sector. They work for safety auditing companies, government, insurance companies, healthcare organizations, manufacturing, and construction.
Other OHS jobs include:
☑️ Health and Safety Manager
☑️ Ergonomics Specialists
☑️ Health and Safety Inspector
☑️ Workplace Health and Wellness Coordinator
Your Next Step
Want to learn more about becoming a certified occupational health and safety officer? Have questions about training, certification, or careers?
Your next step is to speak with Admissions. An Admissions Advisor can walk you through the program and answer any questions you have.
Chat live with an Advisor now to see if this training is right for you.
Or, click below to explore the Occupational Health and Safety program in more detail. Herzing's program is approved by the BCRSP. Our graduates are immediately eligible for CRST certification.