During this session, the objective is to review some trends in professional safety practice, review some of the factors that impact pay for safety professionals, and to summarize factors that make a difference in advancing in a professional safety career.
Professional safety practice is changing. Over the last decade, there are several trends that have impacted professional safety practice. This section will review some of those trends.
One of the trends that has occurred during the last decade or more is the convergence of many areas of specialization into a single field of practice. While specialization may continue to exist, the majority of safety professionals must be sufficiently fluent in several specialized areas to be able to perform basic functions and to know when to seek the specialists and where to find them.
With the passing of the Occupational Safety and Health Act in 1970 and similar federal legislation covering the environment and with the expansion of ergonomics, system safety and similar specialties about that time, the general concept was that one should chose among safety, industrial hygiene, environment, ergonomics, and other specialties within those broad areas of practice or there were specialties within safety. The concept was more of a stovepipe one in which safety was separate from all of the others. In fact, definitions of practice at the time often characterized the differences. For example, industrial hygienists tended to define safety as dealing with traumatic injury and illness, while industrial hygiene dealt with chronic and repeated exposures. Environmental professionals and ergonomists were generally separate from both safety and industrial hygiene.
Much of the convergence has been driven by business practice. With the move toward doing more with fewer people, companies combined safety, health, environmental and often included ergonomics in the same department. In a larger company with specialists in all of these areas, the persons in lead positions are likely to have a background in several areas based on education and work experience. For the small employer that is likely to have only one position for all of the areas, the goal is to fill the position with as much breadth in the person filling the position as possible. One of the results today is that academic programs are seeking to include courses in other areas of specialization for a program named for one of the traditional specialties.
Recent data compiled by the Board of Certified Safety Professionals (BCSP) illustrates the change. When those holding the Certified Safety Professional (CSP) designation were asked to characterize their professional responsibilities in their current position, only 13% of respondents stated that they worked in safety only. About 40% had responsibility for safety and health and another 40% had responsibility for safety, health and environment. In addition, the majority of CSPs identified ergonomics as a part of their professional practice.