Health and Safety Officer

Most companies, universities, and academic medical centers employ a health and safety officer (HSO). The HSO promotes the health and safety of employees and is in charge of the company's formal health and safety program. The HSO writes policies and procedures that the company and its employees must follow to assure a safe work environment. The program is based on state and federal regulations but may be stricter. Work includes measuring hazardous agents, observing workers accomplish their tasks, and making recommendations on ways to reduce injuries. Measurements may include chemicals in laboratory air, noise levels in production areas, and levels of radiation in facilities that use radiation or radioactive substances.

The HSO often observes workers to determine causes of injuries and recommends ways to avoid injuries or exposure to hazardous materials. The HSO provides personal protective equipment for eye and hearing protection, requires machine guards to prevent injuries, and requires protective clothing to guard against chemicals and bacteria. Sometimes the HSO works with a physician to determine the cause of a worker's illness. The HSO at a small company often has a biology or engineering background (depending on the company and hazards to employees). Usually a bachelor of science (B.S.) degree and a few years of experience in health and safety are adequate. Large companies and organizations often require formal graduate training in safety and certification, for example a Certified Safety Professional. The HSO at a large company often has a B.S. degree in a biological or physical science, plus a master's degree or doctorate, depending on the needs of the company. The best way to prepare to become an HSO is to obtain a B.S. degree in science or engineering and a graduate degree in a safety discipline such as safety engineering or industrial hygiene.

SEE ALSO Epidemiologist

Richard J. Vetter


La Follette, S. E., T. Bellingar, and P. Ronczkowski. "On the Path from Student to Practitioner: Testing the Water Before the Internship." Environmental Health 63 (2001): 15–19.

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