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Occupational safety is the science devoted to the anticipation, recognition, evaluation, and control of workplace safety hazards. The occupational safety professional is concerned with the prevention and control of work-related accidents, injuries, illnesses, and all other harmful incidents. These preventable events may result in property damage, business interruption, and environmental effects that threaten public health and safety, and include product-related injuries and illnesses.

Safety professionals are trained to recognize that all occupational “accidents” can be anticipated from and be attributed to unsafe or unhealthy work conditions, job behaviors or practices. Substandard work conditions and job practices are hazards and are considered the last link in a chain of accident causation.

The safety professional is concerned primarily with empowering managers, supervisors, and employees with information to identify and control occupational hazards. Enabling factors are the underlying deficiencies within the organization's operations that produce or permit the existence of exposure to a hazard.

The occupational physician—whether employed directly by a company, retained on a consulting basis, or working in a clinic or hospital serving the industrial community—will be called on to work with safety professionals. In very large organizations, the physician and the safety professional may be part of a loss-control or risk-management team, or even may work in the same department. In smaller organizations, the safety professional often will be the point of contact for the company with the consultant occupational physician.

The physician's interactions with the safety professional generally occur while

  • Providing emergency and nonemergency medical services

  • Performing medical monitoring of employees potentially exposed to hazards

  • Implementing health maintenance programs for employees

  • Participating in employee training programs on health hazards

  • Serving on management oversight committees reviewing the safety program

  • Assisting in accident investigations or reviews

  • Interpreting the medical aspects of safety analyses or regulatory standards


In the United States, the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 (OSHAct) created the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), an administrative agency within the Department of Labor, and made it responsible for the promulgation and enforcement of safety standards applicable to employers. An increasing number of OSHA standards have recognized certified safety professionals, as well as certified industrial hygienists and physicians, as “qualified” and “competent” to evaluate and control regulated hazards.

A safety professional may have a bachelor or master's degree, but no longer necessarily may be an engineer. It is common to find safety professionals with degrees in management, business administration, the sciences, and even behavioral psychology. Several universities offer baccalaureate, masters, and even doctoral degrees specifically in occupational safety and health or safety management. Some state and community colleges offer associate degrees or technical certification in safety.

The Board of Certified Safety Professionals (BCSP) certifies practitioners in the safety profession. About 12,000 ­currently hold the CSP and 7500 retain a related ...

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