Updated November 2022
This is a good time to begin a career in occupational health and safety (OHS). We’re seeing growing demand for OHS professionals across Canada. What’s driving growth in this field?
Every year, thousands of Canadians suffer injuries or lose their lives at work. Unsafe work environments are a major problem, not just in construction but across many sectors of our economy.
The Canadian government wants to lower those numbers, as do business owners and the workers themselves. Even a single death at work has terrible consequences. The family suffers, workers lose faith in management, overall productivity slows down, and the entire community feels the loss.
Skilled health and safety professionals play a crucial role in minimizing the risk of accidents in the workplace. They are experts in spotting safety hazards, delivering safety training, and creating emergency response plans that save lives when disaster strikes.
OHS professionals are also enforcers of government health and safety regulations. They can get a business shut down if management isn't following the law.
There are many different career paths in the field of OHS. There are both generalist and specialist roles, and varying educational requirements.
In this post, we cover three different roles, including job descriptions, key responsibilities, and training requirements. Compare your options. Understand the education you need to get started and see if a career in OHS is right for you.
Health and Safety Officer
There are both entry-level and intermediate health and safety officer positions. This is a typical role for a recent graduate or someone who has a few years of related work experience.
A health and safety officer helps carry out inspections, training, and accident investigations. They are part of an organization’s OHS team, and in most cases, report to a health and safety supervisor or manager.
This is a key role. You’ll get experience in several different aspects of OHS, from enforcing regulations to helping create new policies.
Common responsibilities for health and safety officers include:
☑️ Inspecting workplaces for potential hazards
☑️ Following up on Worker Compensation claims
☑️ Delivering safety orientation and training sessions
☑️ Investigating workplace accidents or illnesses
☑️ Ensuring health and safety regulations are being followed
☑️ Helping coordinate return-to-work programs
☑️ Documenting OHS procedures
You don’t necessarily need a bachelor’s degree to qualify for health and safety officer jobs. However, many employers do require some form of recognized post-secondary OHS training—such as an occupational health and safety diploma.
Earning the Canadian Registered Safety Technician (CRST) certification will also be helpful when competing for jobs.
Health and Safety Manager
This is a senior role that often requires at least five years of OHS experience. A health and safety manager oversees safety officers and administrators. She is responsible for developing an organization's OHS strategy—and ensuring everyone follows it.
This breaks down into a wide range of responsibilities, including:
☑️ Developing all health and safety plans, policies, and procedures
☑️ Conducting regular worksite inspections to ensure compliance with OHS policies
☑️ Overseeing (or delivering) health and safety training
☑️ Conducting risk assessments
☑️ Ensuring accidents are properly investigated and documented
☑️ Developing an annual health and safety budget
☑️ Reporting on health and safety awareness, issues, and statistics
☑️ Recommending solutions to improve OHS procedures
Many employers want candidates with bachelor's degrees in safety management. However, some organizations will accept a health and safety certificate or proven track record of related work experience.
Depending on the company, you may also need additional OHS credentials, such as the Canadian Registered Safety Professional (CRSP) certification.
See a complete guide to OHS certifications and designations here.
Ergonomics is a very important aspect of occupational health and safety. An ergonomics specialist examines how people interact with their workstations (desk, chair, computers, machines).
They analyze the impact on musculoskeletal function and consider common issues like repetitive stress injuries to make workstations safer and more efficient. The main goal of an ergonomics specialist is to reduce sprains and strains by optimizing the workstations and tools we use on the job.
Typical responsibilities of this role include:
☑️ Conducting individual ergonomics assessments
☑️ Analyzing how work environments impact employees
☑️ Delivering training sessions on proper procedures and body positioning to prevent injuries
☑️ Documenting findings and presenting data to management
☑️ Contributing to overall employee wellness initiatives and strategies
☑️ Overseeing return-to-work programs
A quality occupational health and safety diploma will include an introduction to ergonomics. However, if you want to specialize in this field, you may need additional credentials.
Some employers want a university degree in occupational therapy or kinesiology. You may also need the CCPE (Canadian Certified Professional Ergonomist) certification to qualify for jobs in this specialized area of OHS.
Learn more about health and safety training
If you’re interested in a health and safety career but don't want to complete a university degree, you can explore training options at the college level. There are several colleges in Canada offering health and safety diploma programs that can be completed in just one to two years.
Note: It’s important to choose a program that is approved by the Board of Canadian Registered Safety Professionals (BCRSP). Graduates of approved programs are eligible for the Canadian Registered Safety Technician (CRST) certification, and the Canadian Registered Safety Professional (CRSP) certification. These certifications are recognized across Canada and required for many OHS jobs.
At Herzing, we deliver a 12-month Occupational Health and Safety program in Ottawa and Toronto as well as online through our Winnipeg campus. This program also includes an internship for real work experience.
Herzing’s program is approved by the BCRSP. Our students can apply for CRST certification immediately after graduation.
Click below to explore Herzing’s OHS training and chat live with an admissions advisor. Ask about tuition, financial aid, start dates, and admission requirements. We’re here to help!