Photo: Health and safety officers conduct a workplace inspection to ensure OHS regulations are being followed
Occupational health and safety (OHS) training focuses on keeping people safe on the job. Students learn how to conduct assessments and develop policies to make sure work environments are safe and healthy.
OHS expert and Herzing instructor Andrew Pugachev says the job involves identifying and avoiding problems.
"Occupational health and safety officers inspect workplaces for health hazards and develop strategies to control risk. They make sure management is following health and safety laws, investigate accidents, injuries, and complaints—and create programs to ensure continuous improvement."
An increased focus on workplace safety means more employment opportunities are opening up in this field. A government report indicates employment growth in this sector in many parts of Canada.
So the job opportunities are out there. But if you're looking to take advantage of them, it's important to understand the different health and safety training options so you can choose the path that's best for you.
This post explains the similarities and differences between OHS degrees and diplomas. It also describes some key factors you should consider when making your choice.
The BASICS OF all OCCUPATIONAL HEALTH AND SAFETY PROGRAMS
In both diploma and degree programs, health and safety courses typically cover topics like:
- Identifying workplace hazards
- Conducting safety audits
- Preventing fires and accidents
- Following ergonomic principles
- Understanding OHS laws and ethics
- Creating and implementing safety programs
- Managing disability and Worker's Compensation Board claims
Many diploma and degree programs also include internship or co-op opportunities that allow you to get real-world experience as part of your training.
For instance, Herzing's Occupational Health and Safety program includes an 8-week internship.
Andrew, who's been teaching the program for several years, says the placement options are wide-ranging and sometimes lead straight to employment.
"So far, our internship program has seen placement for our graduates within construction, manufacturing, trucking and safety auditing organizations. Grads are getting hired straight out of their internships, which is excellent."
the differences between OHS DIPLOMA AND DEGREE PROGRAMS
The difference between OHS diplomas and degrees boils down to two things: length and depth of training.
Diploma programs offer a shorter route into the workforce. A health and safety program at this level generally takes about 1 to 2 years to complete.
Obviously, diplomas don't go into as much depth as degrees. They focus less on theory and more on the practical skills and knowledge required for entry-level OHS jobs.
However, diploma holders are still eligible for industry certifications that can boost their employment prospects.
For example, if you complete an OHS diploma that's recognized by the Board of Canadian Registered Safety Professionals (BCRSP), you can write the exam to become a Canadian Registered Safety Technician (CRST).
The CRST is an entry-level certification that is recognized all across the country. You don't need a degree to qualify.
On the other hand, health and safety degree programs are longer and go deeper into each topic. Both bachelor's- and master's-level OHS programs are available.
A bachelor's takes about four years to complete, while a master's requires a couple years beyond that.
A degree can make you a stronger candidate for managerial or executive OHS positions. However, you will likely still need some work experience before landing those types of roles.
Note: Some specialized industry certifications, such as the Canadian Certified Professional Ergonomist (CCPE), require candidates to have at least a bachelor's degree.
Which Health and Safety Training program Should You Choose?
An educational program is a big investment of time and money, so it's important to carefully weigh your options in order to find the path that's right for you.
Here are a few factors to think about when deciding whether to pursue a health and safety diploma or degree.
☑️ Length of training
Are you willing to dedicate four years to your education, or are you hoping to learn job-ready skills in a shorter amount of time?
As noted above, OHS degree programs offer more in-depth training, but they require at least four years of study. Diploma programs are designed around practical skills and can be completed in a year or two.
☑️ Admission criteria
Are your grades good enough for university entrance? Degree programs are competitive, and candidates must meet certain academic criteria.
College-level OHS diplomas tend to have fewer entrance requirements. A high school diploma and an entrance exam may be all you need to enroll.
☑️ Long-term goals
What are your career aspirations? With a health and safety diploma, you can qualify for entry-level jobs like Health and Safety Officer or Health and Safety Coordinator.
You can then work your way up to more senior positions. With an OHS degree, you're more likely to qualify faster for leadership roles like Health and Safety Manager or Health and Safety Advisor.
Explore Health and Safety Training at Herzing College ottawa
Diploma and degree programs in health and safety are available across Canada. Whichever route you choose, make sure the program is approved by the BCRSP. That way, you'll be eligible to earn the certifications that many OHS employers require.
If you're looking for a quicker path to employment, consider a college diploma rather than a university degree.
The Occupational Health and Safety program at Herzing is BCRSP-approved and takes just 12 months to complete. It also includes an internship that provides valuable real-world experience.
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