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Hiring an EHS Professional: What You Need to Look For

Posted by Katy Lyden on March 20, 2020 at 12:21 PM

When the decision is made to hire an EHS professional for your organization, the temptation is often to jump right in and start looking for resumes however, there are a few important things to consider before doing that.

Where to Start

Do you have a position description for the EHS role that defines the job duties, reporting structure and overall expectations?  Do you know at what level this role will be functioning?  Meaning, will this role be entry level or at a specialist level or above? Will this role include performing specialized work like writing environmental permits or performing industrial hygiene sampling and monitoring? Do you want someone credentialed? 

All of theses things matter because EHS professionals are not “one size fits all”.  For example, an EHS professional who has spent 5 years working in the healthcare industry will have a different type of experience and knowledge of different standards than an EHS professional who has spent 5 years working in the construction industry. 

You might be asking yourself How does this happen?  Aren’t all EHS professionals doing the same type of work?  And the answer would be a resounding NO! 

The type of industry someone has experience working in matters because the federal standards aren’t the same for all industries.  In addition, if the position you’re trying to fill includes environmental tasks such as interpreting environmental regulations, writing or updating permits and performing environmental sampling—those things aren’t covered by OSHA’s regulations and is an entirely separate skill-set that not all EHS professionals will have experience with.

Standards & Industries

Over time, a good EHS professional will become well versed in the prevailing standards that govern their industry.  For an EHS professional, becoming well versed means not only knowing where to go to find standards but learning how to interpret them, being able to explain them in a way that non EHS people will understand and then understanding how to apply them in the field.  It takes a lot of effort and time to build a good skill-set which is why many EHS professionals will usually stick with one industry throughout their careers. 

So, when looking for the right candidate, make sure you look for people who have safety experience working in your industry or a similar one.  For example, if your industry is the construction industry—look for someone with construction safety experience. 

Credentials

EHS credentials are based on education, years in the profession and in some cases, on what other credentials they hold.  While it would be nice to have an entry level EHS professional who holds the Certified Safety Professional (CSP) credentials, in reality that’s not going to happen because an entry level EHS professional wouldn’t be qualified to sit for the CSP exam just yet.  So, if you’ve already published an advertisement for the position and aren’t getting many applicants, it may be because you’ve asked for credentials that don’t align with the level of the position. 

The Board of Certified Safety Professionals (BCSP) currently offers 10 different exam based credentials and certifications for EHS professionals.  To earn any one of these, an applicant must usually meet specific educational and work experience requirements before they will be allowed to sit for an exam (if there is one).  If you’d like to learn more about the different credentials and how the process works, take a look at our blog article on EHS Professional Credentialing

Professional Levels

Roles within the EHS profession can be broken down into five basic levels, each having a specific set of skills, knowledge, education and credentialing.  Using the American Society of Safety Professional’s (ASSP) Guide to Hiring the Right Occupational Safety & Health Professional, we’ve summarized the first three levels for you below.

Entry Level

If you’re hiring an entry level EHS professional, you’ll want this person to have at a minimum, a two year degree in one of the EHS disciplines (occupational safety and health, environmental management, safety or environmental science, etc.). 

Most entry level EHS professionals will not have a lot of work experience in the field but may have had an internship or performed minimal health and safety tasks at a previous employer.  A great resource for finding good candidates to fill an entry level EHS position is at a local community college or university that offers a degree program in one of the EHS disciplines.

When looking at resumes, you’ll want to look for people who have performed tasks such scheduling and providing safety training, managing chemical safety data sheets, performing walk through safety inspections, helping with incident investigations and managing records.  They might also have been responsible for tracking any safety metrics or key performance indicators (KPIs). As far as environmental experience, you will probably not find many people at this level with much environmental experience.  If they do have environmental experience, it will be limited to things like performing stormwater visual inspections or other very basic tasks.

A person at this level may hold a GSP (Graduate Safety Practitioner) credential but will probably not have formal credentials because most credentials from the Board of Certified Safety Professionals require a certain amount of education and experience which this person won’t have. 

Safety Technicians/Specialists

If you’re hiring someone at the technician or specialist level, you’ll be looking for people who have been in the EHS professional between three and five years.  Like an entry level EHS professional, an EHS technician or specialist should have at a minimum a two year degree in one of the EHS disciplines, but preferably a four year degree.

This person will have experience in all the things an entry level EHS professional does only at a higher level.  In addition, they will have experience in basic safety and environmental auditing, identifying hazards, providing guidance and direction on hazard mitigation activities (like designing machine guards), will have performed a few basic industrial hygiene activities like sampling for noise, dust, etc., and experience interpreting those results.  This person will also have some experience writing technical reports and interpreting data.  Environmentally speaking, someone at this level will have a decent understanding of the environmental permitting hierarchy and associated regulations and will have some experience writing environmental permits and performing other environmental work—like sampling and submitting environmental reports.

While not every EHS professional chooses to earn credentials, if you’re looking for a credentialed person, someone at this professional level could technically hold a credential as a Certified Safety Professional (CSP) but more often than not, you’ll see resumes with either an ASP (Associate Safety Professional) credential or the OHST (Occupational Health & Safety Technician) credential. 

Manager/Senior Specialists

Someone who is at this level will have worked in the EHS profession between five and seven years or longer and will usually hold a four year degree in Occupational Health & Safety (or a related discipline) OR this person will hold a non-safety related four year degree and will have more years of experience.

They will have all of the same experience as the Safety Technician/Specialist but again, at a higher level and among other things, will also have experience working with senior and line management and regulatory agencies, designing, implementing and managing EHS programs at one or more facilities, evaluating written programs and testing them for effective implementation, planning and managing a budget and managing workers compensation claims and return to work programs.  Someone at this level will usually have experience with environmental program management, writing and submitting environmental reports and providing guidance to facility management on environmental matters.

If this person holds credentials, they could be any of the formal credentials offered by the BCSP but will most likely be the Certified Safety Professional (CSP), the ASP (Associate Safety Professional) credential or the Certified Industrial Hygienist® (CIH®) credential—or any combination of these.

The Final Takeaway

Hiring the right EHS professional can be taxing but with a little planning, it doesn’t have to be.  If you’re looking to learn more about the EHS profession you’re joining, make sure to check out our blog for more great tips, like these essential workplace safety skills for EHS professionals.

Topics: Workplace Health and Safety, EHS Management, Safety Management, Safety Culture, Human Resources, Professional Development

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