If you mentioned occupational safety and health certifications, most people would probably think of the Certified Safety Professional (CSP) or the Certified Industrial Hygienist (CIH) designations. Although these may be capstone certifications, other respectable certifications are available for individuals working at a technician or technologist level: namely, the OHST, the CHST and the STS, offered by the Council on the Certification of Health, Environmental and Safety Technologists (CCHEST).

CCHEST (formerly known as the ABIH/BCSP Joint Committee) is a joint venture between the Board of Certified Safety Professionals and the American Board of Industrial Hygiene. Not only are CCHEST certifications widely recognized and accepted in industry, but all three have received accreditation by the National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA).

The Occupational Safety and Health Technologist (OHST) certification is the oldest of the three. As of this writing, there are almost 1,300 OHSTs. OHST certification is intended for anyone who works in occupational safety and health and may be involved in safety inspections, industrial hygiene monitoring, safety and health training, investigating and maintaining records and similar functions. Job duties may be full- or part-time. Because qualifications are less stringent than those of the CSP or the CIH, the OHST can be a great place to start out for many working in the field.

Individuals working in safety and health who do not yet have the experience required to sit for the OHST exam are not out of luck. Upon passing the exam, an individual is awarded the Associate Occupational Health and Safety Technologist (AOHST) designation. This temporary designation denotes progress toward the OHST certification, although it is not a certification in itself. AOHSTs may put “Associate Occupational Health and Safety Technologist” or “AOHST” after their name. Once all experience qualifications are met, the AOHST is awarded the OHST certification.

Candidates for the Construction Health and Safety Technologist (CHST) certification are typically employed as safety and health specialists on construction job sites, serving in either full- or part-time positions. They usually work for an owner, general contractor, subcontractor or firm involved in construction or construction safety.

There are currently close to 1,000 CHSTs. The certification was originally created in response to a need identified by the Construction Division of the American Society of Safety Engineers and the National Safety Council, who were seeking a credential for construction safety positions and for first-line supervisors in construction.

Safety Trained Supervisor (STS) is the newest — and probably the least well-known — of the CCHEST certifications, although the current number of active STSs is greater than all OHSTs and CHSTs combined. STS certification is intended for individuals who are managers at any level, are first-line supervisors of work groups or organization units, or have a safety responsibility for a work group that is part of other work duties. Safety Trained Supervisors are not safety specialists or safety practitioners — usually STS candidates have a safety responsibility that is adjunct, collateral or ancillary to their job duties. Their main job duties are in a craft or trade, in leadership, supervision or management, or in a technical specialty.

There is much talk about the benefits of pushing safety further down into an organization, and the STS program does just that. STS certification gives employees on the front line the confidence to do what needs to be done to keep their co-workers safe on the job and this provides positive results at every level. There are currently three different STS exams — Construction, General Industry and Petrochemical — so individuals can achieve certification in their specific field.

A higher level
CCHEST certification programs offer recognition among safety and health practitioners, demonstrate competence to employers and others, increase employee confidence in occupational health and safety programs, help improve company profitability through reduced incidents and losses, and enhance company image. By achieving a CCHEST certification yourself or encouraging others to do so, you are helping to move our profession to a higher level and progress toward our goal of achieving safer workplaces.

Sidebar: What about insurance industry?

CCHEST also offers a program for those in the insurance industry. This certification, the Certified Loss Control Specialist (CLCS), is in response to a need to assess minimum competency in the loss control practice. Requirements for achieving and retaining the OHST and CLCS are identical. Candidates working in insurance may choose which path they wish to follow. If an individual passes either the OHST or the CLCS exam but does not yet have the required experience, they receive an associate designation (AOHST or ACLCS) to show progress toward the certification.