Are all Safety credential the same?

By Karen Saurage

As a leader of your organization, you have probably been involved in the process of hiring or contracting a safety professional. It probably seems like there is an alphabet soup behind each of the safety professional’s names. These abbreviations should lead to a very important question. Do all safety certifications hold the same credibility? The short answer is no. So how do you know if you’re getting a good quality candidate?

Credentials alone do not define a person’s value; a degreed individual is not always better than non-degreed. The key is to consider where you want your organization to be in the future.

Let’s consider some of the more common abbreviations and what they mean:

COSS (Certified Occupational Safety Specialist): A course geared to the beginning safety practitioner. Successful completion of COSS provides a base knowledge of the safety profession, understanding of regulations, and prepares the participant to perform basic audits, present effective safety training and maintain safety programs. The COSS requires recertification every three years.

COSM (Certified Occupational Safety Managers): Similar to COSS. Designed to help safety professionals advance their careers. COSM includes specialized training for persons with at least two years of HS&E experience. The key difference between COSS and COSM is the ability to develop safety programs. The COSM requires recertification every three years.

CSST (Construction Site Safety Technician): A National Center for Construction Education and Research program and certification geared toward craft professionals seeking a path into a safety career, as well as current safety technicians, coordinators or foremen seeking to improve their safety skillset.

OHST (Occupational Hygiene and Safety Technician)/CHST (Construction Health and Safety Technician): These are two of the 10 Board of Certified Safety Professionals (BCSP) credentials. OHST and CHST for persons who perform occupational hygiene and safety activities for at least 35 percent of their job duties. The OHST and CHST do not require a degree but do require a minimum of three years of experience (construction experience for CHST) and a certification exam. OHSTs and CHSTs must recertify every five years.

ASP (Associate Safety Professional): A BCSP credential for a person with a bachelor’s degree or an associate degree in an HS&E field whose role is at least 50 percent preventive, professional level safety duties with a minimum of one year’s experience in the safety role.

CSP (Certified Safety Professional): A BCSP credential for a person with a bachelor’s degree whose role is at least 50 percent preventative, professional level with breadth and depth of safety duties. Candidates for CSP must hold a BCSP-qualified credential, have a minimum of four years of experience, pass a certification exam and recertify every five years. A CSP is the gold standard for safety credentials and is recognized worldwide.

CIH (Certified Industrial Hygienist): American Board of Industrial Hygiene credential for industrial hygiene (IH). A CIH typically holds a minimum of a bachelor’s degree in biology, chemistry, engineering, physics or an Accreditation Board for Engineering & Technology accredited program in industrial hygiene or safety, has practiced IH at least four years, has professional references, passed a certification exam and completes five-year recertification cycles. The CIH is the premier IH credential and is recognized worldwide.

The list of credentials provided above is not all-inclusive; other certifications, courses and credentials exist. With the wide range of certifying bodies and safety certificates available, it is important to realize that all credentials are not equal. When selecting a candidate for your organization, it is critical to understand your current safety culture, know your short- and long-term safety goals, and know what type of safety culture you hope to build. Most importantly, remember to consider all of your specific needs when you are determining the minimum requirements for your safety resources.


A Certified Safety Professional (CSP) with over 17 years of experience in Occupational Health and Safety, Karen leads our special projects team of safety specialists, industrial hygienists, and technicians. Karen’s unique experience provides OneSource’s clients with practical knowledge in Health and Safety Compliance. Her focus is developing effective Safety Culture programs, assessing, and reducing risk in order to help companies secure profits and protect their assets.

Karen holds a B.S in Toxicology from University of Louisiana at Monroe and M.P.H Environmental Health Science, University of South Carolina.

For more information on how Karen and her team can work with you, email her today: [email protected] or call: 225-450-9273.

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