The CHST and other safety certifications can help your career in construction.
Earning a certification is a good way to boost your construction safety career. You’ll find a lot of options out there.
The construction health and safety technician or CHST is a credential that demonstrates your knowledge of construction safety. The Board of Certified Safety Professionals (BCSP) awards it to someone who has demonstrated competency in preventing illnesses and injuries on construction job sites.
To become certified, you must:
- Have three years’ experience in the workforce, with at least 35 percent of your primary job duties involving safety, health and environmental practices related to construction
- Pass a 200-question exam that requires you to demonstrate your knowledge of professional safety practices
The exam tests your knowledge of project management, worksite auditing, training and professional responsibility (i.e. recordkeeping) and assesses your ability to:
- Work with the construction management team to review the safety aspects of contracts
- Develop a site-specific safety plan
- Assess worksites to identify hazards and non-compliance
- Assess workers’ safety training needs and how to provide the training
- Maintain accurate records of inspections, safety trainings, etc.
Once you’ve earned your CHST certification, you can maintain it by paying an annual fee and by earning, every five years, 20 points in professional activities that update or expand your knowledge of construction safety.
A CHST could be a good credential to have if you’re applying for a job like safety director, safety manger, safety coordinator or environmental health and safety director.
Associate Safety Professionals and Certified Safety Professionals (ASP and CSP)
The BCSP offers two other safety certification programs that reflect a higher degree of experience and education as well as knowledge and skills in leadership, business practices and communications and information technology. Neither the ASP nor the CSP is specific to the construction industry; they can be earned by any type of safety, health and environmental (SH&E) practitioner.
An Associate Safety Professional is a mid-level certification for safety professionals. To qualify, you’ll need either an associate degree in safety, health or environment or a bachelor's degree, including 12 hours of SH&E courses. At least one year of on-the-job experience is necessary, and at least 50 percent of your job responsibilities have to include professional safety responsibilities. Of course, you’ll have to pass the certification exam as well.
An ASP might be a safety supervisor, safety technician or safety specialist.
The Certified Safety Professional is a step higher on the career scale; you could be a safety executive, engineer or consultant. To get the CSP you have to meet the same degree requirements as for an ASP and also have 18 hours of classes in SH&E. You’ll need at least four years on the job, with at least 50 percent of your time spent on safety responsibilities. Then you can sit for the CSP exam.
As with the CHST, you’ll have to pay a fee each year and meet other recertification criteria to keep the ASP and the CSP designations.
Other safety certifications
Various colleges and universities offer their own certification programs in construction safety. Arizona State University, for example, has a Specialist in Safety and Health certificate program; someone looking for a construction industry specialization has to take five OSHA courses through the school. (The OSHA website has a long list of certificate and degree programs.)
While having a professional credential is no guarantee that you’ll move up the career ladder faster, it is one way to demonstrate to employers that you’re serious about safety.
Freelance writer Mary Lou Jay writes about business and technical developments in a variety of industries. She has been covering residential and commercial construction for more than 25 years.