Photo: OHS instructor Navin Homenauth
Occupational health and safety (OHS) has moved into the spotlight lately, as organizations race to implement new regulations and safety measures against Covid-19.
But even before the pandemic, there's been rising concern about workplace safety in Ontario. With accidents and injuries on the rise, both government and private industry are investing in better OHS programs.
There's growing demand for health and safety professionals at all levels, from entry-level to management.
Navin Homenauth started in the industry over 10 years ago, working in many different OHS roles, creating and implementing safety programs for a variety of organizations.
Last year, he started teaching the OHS diploma program at Herzing College Toronto. We interviewed him this week to learn more about the training and latest industry trends.
Navin walked us through Herzing's program, explained what to expect in class, and typical jobs for new graduates.
Read on to meet the instructor and get an inside look at the career.
Q: What is your education and professional experience in Occupational Health and Safety?
Navin: I have certificates in Occupational Health and Safety, Mental Health Leadership, and Risk Management from the University of Toronto and Queens University.
I also hold a Bachelor degree in Commerce and Human Resources Strategy and Technology from Seneca College.
On the professional side, I have over 10 years of progressive and extensive experience in developing, executing, and monitoring health and safety programs and standards.
I’ve worked in several industries, including retail, industrial distribution and logistics, and health care.
Q: How long have you been teaching the OHS diploma program at Herzing College Toronto?
Navin: I’ve been teaching the OHS diploma program at Herzing College for over a year.
I’ve always thought there’s an opportunity in the educational sector to add more practicality to Health and Safety training for individuals who want to pursue the profession.
The practical and real life examples you learn from Herzing's program better equip you for the real world – and that's what inspired me to become an educator for the profession.
Q: So what kinds of practical skills do students learn in this program?
Navin: Students walk away with not only theoretical knowledge of Health and Safety principles, but also the ability to apply that theory in real-world situations and work environments.
Students also learn a lot from a communications and strategy perspective, and overall due-diligence requirements for health and safety in a workplace.
From health and safety regulations to practical implementation at work - this program covers all the bases.
Q: What kinds of assignments do students complete for class?
Navin: Students complete assignments that apply to real-life health and safety scenarios. They can base assignments on where they currently work, places they've worked in the past, or new research on a specific work environment.
I typically grade the assignments based on how well students apply the theoretical OHS principles taught in class.
The goal is to assess their overall understanding of each topic and make sure every student is grasping key concepts and staying on track.
Q: What backgrounds do your OHS students come from?
Navin: Students in the Health and Safety program at Herzing come from all different backgrounds and age groups.
We have students who are new to Canada and are preparing for careers in workplace safety.
We also have students who already have some background in health and safety, and they bring great insights and real-life examples that add value to the program.
And there are also students who are completely new to the field. The diversity adds a lot of excitement and interest to the classroom.
Q: What kinds of entry-level jobs can students get after completing the OHS diploma at Herzing?
Navin: Our graduates are qualified for several entry-level Health and Safety roles. Here are a few typical examples:
Health and Safety Administrator: very base-level role, which involves providing support to senior safety personnel with administrative activities within a health and safety program/management system.
Health and Safety Coordinator: this role is where most safety professionals start with little to no experience. The position is a combination of administrative/compliance work combined with front-line activities, like training staff and helping to implement safety programs.
Disability/Claims Management Coordinator: this role involves managing the cycle of claims relating to occupational incidents. This includes Workers Compensation claims and special accommodations. This work very often spills over into Ergonomics and Workplace Wellness initiatives.
Q: Is there demand for Health and Safety professionals in Ontario right now? What are the latest industry trends?
Navin: The OHS role has changed dynamically over the last decade and will continue to do so.
There is growing demand for skilled OHS professionals due to the ongoing enhancements in legislation and worker health and safety regulation.
We are seeing a big push into technology and training in OHS, such as UAV technology for inspections in construction and wearable technology to monitor exertion for manual work.
Going forward, the use of technology will help elevate the OHS role and give professionals more tools to promote workplace safety.
Q: What key skills are needed to become a successful OHS professional?
Navin: Communication is always going to be key for Health and Safety professionals.
Clear and consistent communication about roles, responsibilities, process, and procedures is key to any health and safety program.
Employers are also looking for resiliency and strategic thinking. They want to hire people who can help them be more proactive and stay ahead of the curve.
They're looking to continuously improve safety awareness and training to minimize illness/injuries among workers.
Q: What is the value of the CRST and CRSP certifications? How important is it to get certified?
Navin: There is definite value in achieving these certifications from the BCRSP. These are the gold-standard requirements for any safety professional.
Having these certifications tells employers you’ve met a high standard of training and have the knowledge and experience to add real value to the OHS team.
Q: In your experience, what are the biggest pros and cons of working in health and safety?
Navin: It might sound like a cliché, but the biggest pro to working in this field is that every day is different.
Canada has such a diverse workforce, which is excellent, but definitely challenges us to think about health and safety programs differently to meet the needs of each business.
We're always striving to make workplace safety more inclusive.
This includes making safety awareness, training, and implementation more fun and enjoyable for the workers, as well.
My only con for this role would be the constant need to “sell safety”. OHS professionals must constantly reinforce why safety training and programs are needed to protect workers from injury and illness.
Not everyone understands this need, or wants to accept changes to the way they approach work.
For OHS managers, part of the job is educating others about WHY safety programs are important and fostering a culture where health, safety, and wellness are highly valued and a top priority.
Want to learn more about the Occupational Health & Safety Program?
Herzing College Toronto offers a 12-month Occupational Health and Safety diploma. Training is available online and includes a 12-week internship.
Our program is approved by the Board of Canadian Registered Safety Professionals, the country's leading organization for OHS certification.
Herzing OHS graduates are immediately eligible for the Canadian Registered Safety Technician (CRST) certification with the BCRSP.
Click below to explore the OHS diploma in more detail, and chat live with an Admissions Advisor. We're here to help!