Professional development

More than 3 out of 5 safety pros perform duties outside their expertise, survey finds

Photo: Alina555/iStockphoto

Aurora, CO — Occupational safety and health professionals are in need of expanded continuing education training and resources, say researchers from the Colorado School of Public Health after results of a recent survey show that more than 3 out of 5 are required to perform duties outside their primary area of expertise.

More than 2,000 OSH professionals from 48 states and the District of Columbia completed the 27-question survey, developed and distributed by NIOSH’s 18 Education and Research Centers. Most were from private industry (46%), over age 50 (63%) and decided on continuing education participation for themselves or others (66%). The survey gauged the respondents’ continuing education needs and interests.

Most of the respondents (61%) reported that they perform work activities unrelated to their primary OSH profession. Further, among them, 72% identified different continuing education topics that would help increase their professional knowledge. Of that group, at least 75% chose 11 different topics that were of greatest interest to them.


The topics that ranked high among at least 4 out of 5 of the respondents were legal issues in OSH (88%), compliance with new OSHA/state/other standards (88%), risk management/risk assessment (85%), occupational safety (84%), health and safety system management issues (83%), risk communication (83%), exposure assessment (83%), safety culture (83%), injury prevention (including traumatic injuries; 82%), communications in incident prevention (81%), back injury prevention (80%), and occupational stress (80%).

Other findings:

  • The most common professions represented in the survey were safety (28%), occupational health nursing (18%) and industrial hygiene (12%).
  • Safety (23%), ergonomics (15%) and workplace wellness (12%) were the most common secondary areas of OSH work represented.
  • 77% of the respondents had taken part in online or hybrid courses, but only 52% prefer that method.
  • Respondents most often learned about continuing education courses via emails (49%), local professional societies (41%), and advertisements or announcements in publications (36%).

The study was published online June 10 in the American Journal of Industrial Medicine.

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