To certify or not to certify

Safety professionals who want to document their experience and skills have many options for professional certification. The Board of Certified Safety Professionals alone lists seven different programs, from the Certified Safety Professional to the Safety Trained Supervisor. Other organizations providing such programs include the World Safety Organization (17 different certifications), the National Association of Safety Professionals (a mind-boggling 50 programs), and the Board of Environmental, Health & Safety Auditors (just one, but in various specialties). I haven’t even mentioned venerable programs like the Certified Industrial Hygienist, which certainly requires some safety expertise. And how about the Polevault Safety Certification Board, for coaches and participants? Oh, wait, I’m supposed to focus on chemical safety here.

For those specializing in laboratory safety, the best known certification may well be the Certified Chemical Hygiene Officer (CHO) program, offered by the National Registry of Certified Chemists (NRCC). The NRCC is heavily supported by the American Chemical Society, and the CHO certification is by far the most popular of its seven programs for chemists. Effective October 1, I will be taking over as executive director of the NRCC from long-time Director Gilbert Smith.

With this alphabet soup of choices, where should a chemical safety professional go for certification, and is it worth the effort? First, I’ll say a qualified yes that it can be a good idea. Some states have certification requirements for certain positions. Some employers require or “prefer” certification as a condition of employment. These requirements may apply only to one certification program, or several may be listed as meeting criteria. Anyone in a job search for a chemical safety career should certainly consider becoming certified in at least a specialty field, if for no other reason than to have his or her resume stand out from the crowd.

On the downside, some of these certifications are expensive to achieve and maintain. Many if not all require continuing education in order to maintain certification, and there are fees for application, testing, and renewal.  I’m interested in how our readers feel about this – has certification been of value to you? Is it required for your job? Is it worth the effort?

Author: Russ Phifer

Russ is a professional volunteer, active in ACS since 1982. He is the only History major (College of Wooster, 1974) to Chair an ACS Committee (Chemical Safety), Technical Division (CHAS), and Task Force (Laboratory Chemical & Waste Management). In his spare time he is Executive Director of the National Registry of Certified Chemists (NRCC), EH&S Manager for a printing plant (Chiyoda America, Morgantown, PA), and run his own environmental health & safety consulting and training firm (WC Environmental, LLC). Also active in local politics, he nonetheless enjoys spending time with his wife Molly and their five children.

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1 Comment

  1. With some pain, I relinquished my CHO certification this past year after quite some time having it. Reason? Dollars and necessity. Being a CIH and known in the field as a chemical safety professional, the CHO certification was redundant.

    All the time I had it, it was never asked for or recognized by potential clients or employers.

    Studying for the CHO exam, in my opinion, provides good insight on the fundamentals for being a chemical hygiene officer. I took the exam the first year it was offered and found it utterly centered around the lab standard verbiage and the preamble to the lab standard and I believe that has changed over the years.

    The CHO certification does not require continuing education, while the CSP and CIH certs both do.