So, you want to get into the field of Occupational Health and Safety? Great choice! I love the career and it has been good for me. I actually get asked the question a lot and the answer really depends on where you are, what you know, and where you want to be. Safety professionals are hired by all sorts of firms from construction, to manufacturing to healthcare!
A good place to start your education is your local safety association; many industries have one. Most of my experience is in construction, so I tend to default to the Alberta Construction Safety Association. They have a series of courses to complete and once you are done you will get one of two certificates. If you have less than three years of construction experience you can get your Health and Safety Administrator (HSA), if you have more than three years you can get your National Construction Safety Officer (NCSO) certificate. Depending on the employer, either of these may be enough to get you into an entry-level position.
While both these certifications are very good and are well recognized in the industry, I would tend to consider them a start to your educational journey as opposed to an endpoint. As the profession gets more and more technical, it is definitely to your advantage to pursue a post-secondary certificate of some sort. There are two excellent programs here in Alberta. One is the OHS Certificate/Diploma program at the University of Alberta and another is the OH&S Diploma Program at the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology.
The reason I am referencing these two, in particular, is because of my familiarity with them. I completed the UofA Certificate program early in my career and I am involved with the NAIT Program as part of their Program Advisory Committee. There are many other great programs across Canada, and some can be done by distance learning. The Canadian Center for Occupational Health and Safety has a comprehensive list that you can reference. Here is the link: Courses in OH&S Canada: OSH Answers (ccohs.ca)
There are some associations that you may also want to consider. The first is the Canadian Society of Safety Engineering or CSSE. This is a good starting point as it is quite accessible to newer practitioners. The prerequisite for joining is simply that you be employed in the industry. Participating in CSSE events is a great way to network and meet other practitioners. While you are on the site, you can check out their Canadian Health and Safety Consultant (CHSC) training and designation.
The Board for Canadian Registered Safety Professionals is also definitely worth a look. They register two levels of practitioners: Canadian Registered and Safety Technician (CRST) and Canadian Registered Safety Professional (CRSP). The pre-requisites for these designations are fairly robust — you will need to complete some post-secondary education and will need a number of years of experience for each level. The information is easy to find on their website. The CRSP designation is considered by many to be the top designation to have in Canada and is highly desirable to have.
I am going to finish with some career advice I give everyone. Volunteer where you can. In addition to the satisfaction of advancing Health and Safety, you can gain some great experience and some business contacts. Look for things like regional safety committees or volunteer work within your safety association.
That’s it! Good luck on your prospective new career! If you are looking for more information about health and safety guidelines for your company, read more about our safety consulting services.