October 6, 2015

OHST/CLCS and CHST Exams: An Overview

Among the several certification exams put out by the Board of Certified Safety Professionals, the most closely related are the Occupational Health and Safety Technologist (OHST) and Certified Loss Control Specialist (CLCS) certification program and the Construction Health and Safety Technician (CHST) certification program. The OHST exam and CLCS exam are so closely related that the exam tests on the same material. Essentially, the duties of an OHST or a CLCS are performing health-related assessments and activities within various occupations. These may include performing tests to determine safety risks in the workplace, evaluating health-related accidents within the workplace, and making plans for emergency situations. The duties of the CHST are much the same, except they are specific to the construction occupation rather than a broad range of occupations.

The OHST exam is made up of 200 multiple-choice questions. The test will be taken over a computer at an official exam location, and the test taker will have a 4 hour time limit. The exam will cover 3 domains of content. These are assessing safety, which will count for 31.5% of the exam, hazard control and loss prevention, which will count for 35.5% of the exam, and verification and continuous improvement, which will count for 33% of the exam.
The CLCS exam will be almost identical to the OHST exam. It will be computer-based, there will be 200 multiple-choice questions, you will have a 4 hour time limit, and the content domains and the percentages they make up of the test will be the same.

The CHST exam is a computer-based test featuring 200 multiple-choice questions. As with the OHST/CLCS exams, there will be a 4 hour time limit. There are 4 domains of content covered in the CHST exam. These are program management, which will count for 52% of the exam, worksite auditing, which will count for 19% of the exam, training, which will count for 21% of the exam, and professional responsibility, which will count for 8% of the exam. In addition to knowing information pertinent to these specific domains, the test taker will need to have a basic understanding of algebra, trigonometry, biology, chemistry, and physics.

The OHST/CLCS and CHST exams have specific eligibility requirements a candidate must meet before applying. If you are interested in taking any of these exams, make sure you qualify and then proceed with the application process. Send in the application form, documentation of eligibility, and all applicable fees. If you are approved for testing, you will have a period of 3 years in which to become certified. If you do not take the exam you have applied for during this time, you will have to start over with the application process. For candidates with personal or medical issues that prevent them from taking the test during this 3 year time window, they can apply for a 1 year extension. In extreme cases, a second 1 year extension may be applied for. Note that any extension you receive will require paying an extension fee. This information related to the 3 year deadline and potential time extensions applies to all 3 exams—OHST, CLCS, and CHST.

There is no set score you must reach to pass these 3 tests. A passing score is determined by the difficulty of the questions comprising the exam, how many of the questions are related to activities that will make up a regular part of your job, and how other test takers do on the exam. Thus, every year and every exam may have a different score that denotes a candidate’s passing. If you do pass the OHST, CLCS, or CHST exam, you must renew your certification every 5 years to maintain your credentials.

OHST/CLCS and CHST Recertification

OHST/CLCS and CHST Recertification: After you pass the OHST/CLCS or CHST exam you are certified, but you must renew your certification every 5 years in order to retain your credentials. If that 5 year period elapses without your recertifying, you must start over with the application process and take the exam again. The only time this certification period will exceed 5 years is when you first become certified. For newly certified individuals, the period until recertification stretches from your exam date to December 31st 5 years later. The recertification process includes submitting all applicable fees and accruing a certain number of recertification points.

If you are an OHST, CLCS, or CHST, you must accumulate 20 recertification points before your 5 year deadline is up. You can get recertification points by participating in activities that fall into 10 categories. These categories vary in the number of recertification points they are worth. Some of them have a maximum number of points that can be earned in a year or a cycle. You can find out about the number of points you should assign to an activity from a specific category by consulting the Recertification Guide on the BCSP website. If you are an OHST or CLCS, activities must be related to the field of occupational health and safety for them to count towards recertification. If you are a CHST, activities must be related to the field of construction health and safety for them to count towards recertification. Activities in each of the 10 categories have different requirements for verifying documentation. See the Recertification Guide for instructions on documenting activities from different categories. If you have passed both the OHST/CLCS and CHST exams, you will not have to amass 40 points. A single set of 20 activity points related to both areas will be sufficient.

If you do not renew your certification before your 5 year time period is up, you may have another option. It is possible to apply for a time extension. This extension will typically be for 1 year. Note that this year being added to one renewal cycle will detract one year from the next one. If you are granted an extension, you will have a 6 year renewal window rather than 5 year, but your next renewal deadline will now be in 4 years rather than in 5. You will not be allowed to request an extension two cycles in a row. If you do not renew your certification and you do not request a time extension, your credentials will be rendered invalid.

You can also request a Leave of Absence if you will not be actively working as an OHST, CLCS, or CHST during a 5 year renewal period. This Leave of Absence can last for as long as 3 years. After you have used one Leave of Absence, you will never be able to request one again. The regular amount of recertification points are decreased by 5 per year during a Leave of Absence in the case of an OHST/CLCS and CHST. Applicable fees must still be paid.

If you are no longer working, you can opt out of the renewal cycle by requesting retired status. If you attain retired status, you will no longer have the OHST/CLCS or CHST credentials, but you will be recognized by other professionals in your field as having worked under those credentials in the past. You may also be granted eligibility to be reinstated into active status if you wish in the future with fewer stipulations than you otherwise would have.

OHST/CLCS and CHST Study Strategies

Although the material covered on the OHST/CLCS and CHST exams may be different, there are certain study strategies you can use in preparing for either of them. The only difference will be in the material you are studying. Some of the most useful approaches to studying for either of these exams fall into 4 categories: individual study, group study, review courses, and practice exams.

You’re going to need to devote a good deal of time and attention to studying on your own. You should implement a study schedule as soon as you decide to apply for either of the exams. If you start your schedule several months before the exam date, you will be able to devote plenty of time to each area of content that might appear on the test without overwhelming yourself. Look at the domains of content that will be featured on your test. With these areas of content in mind, find textbooks and reference books that address material you might expect to see on the test. Try to spend one month studying each individual domain of content. Use flashcards for memorizing formulas/equations and terminology. Highlight information you come across in your reading. At the end of each study session, review your flashcards and any of the text you have highlighted. Try not to overwhelm yourself with long study sessions. Plan to study two hours every morning and two hours every evening. You should take one day a week off from study to let your brain rest.

You should also engage in group study. During group meetings you can divide up into pairs for one-on-one discussion, formulate a definitive study guide for the exam, or each take a topic and teach it to the rest of the group. All of these things will present study material from a different angle, which can be useful for material you are struggling with. Hold group meetings once or twice a week. If possible, all group members should try to coordinate the material they are studying in their personal time so that each weekly meeting can be a collaborative review of material that everyone has just finished studying on their own. When the exam date nears, try playing a review game to assess how much you have learned and what areas you might need to focus on more as the test date nears. You can format your game like a television game show and use categories based on those domains that will be featured in the OHST/CLCS or CHST exam.

Take a review course. Review courses are provided by various organizations, and you can find out about different ones by conducting a web search. Review courses are helpful for a number of reasons. The course instructor will be familiar with the way the exam is written, and will thus be able to explain different approaches you can take to various types of problems. You will have the opportunity to try a number of sample questions, which will give you an idea of what you will see on the test and will also help you assess your strengths and weaknesses. If you have otherwise been studying on your own, a review course is a good place to meet people to form a study group. On top of preparing you mentally for the OHST/CLCS or CHST exam, a review course may cover techniques for stress reduction, such as breathing techniques, sleeping properly, and balancing study with other obligations.

About a month before the test, it would be a good idea to take a Self-Assessment Exam (SAE). SAEs are offered by the Board of Certified Safety Professionals (BCSP) for individuals taking the OHST/CLCS or CHST exam. SAEs contain half the number of questions you will encounter on an actual exam. Taking this will allow you to assess your strengths and the areas you need to work on more.

OHST/CLCS Exam Content

OHST/CLCS Exam Content: The Occupational Health and Safety Technologist (OHST) exam and Certified Loss Control Specialist (CLCS) exam cover the same areas of content. Roughly, there are 5 domains represented: worksite assessment, hazard control and loss prevention, verification, disaster planning and emergency response, and professional responsibility. Each of these domains features specific tasks, knowledge, and skills you will need to be familiar with.

The first domain is worksite assessment, which constitutes 34% of the overall test material. Tasks that fall into this domain include obtaining risk data through research of business operations, assessing business operations data through comparisons to national standards, industry standards, and standards upheld by the business in the past, assessing hazards through business staff member surveys, documenting the results of surveys, and recommending actions to be taken in light of survey results. Some examples of knowledge that falls into the work assessment domain include computer databases, biological sciences, applicable federal, local, and state regulations, navigation of the Internet, Internet research methodology, business terminology, mathematics, data sampling procedures, survey methodology, safety standards, behavioral sciences, and cost-benefit analysis. Skills pertaining to work assessment include conducting research, using computers and the Internet, conducting interviews, written and verbal communication, conducting surveys, and reading blueprints.

The second domain is hazard control and loss prevention, which makes up 31% of the exam material. Some of the tasks that fall into this domain are evaluating risks within the workplace, choosing appropriate hazard control methods, communicating hazards to the appropriate authorities, and helping with the development of plans for the control of hazards. Questions in this area may test your knowledge of statistical and mathematical formulas, biological sciences, federal, state, and local standards, ventilation, industry standards, personal protective equipment, financial terminology, and OSHA record keeping. Skills that may fall into this domain include instruction, communication, organization, negotiating, and critical thinking.

The third domain covered on the OHST/CLCS exam is verification. This domain constitutes 17% of the test content. Tasks covered in this domain will include verifying that hazard controls are put in place and maintained, analyzing accidents and problems that may warrant the reevaluation of hazard control plans, and analyzing performance data on a regular basis to ensure that hazard control plans are effective. Some examples of knowledge you may be tested on in this domain are methods for auditing, federal, state, and local regulations, risk analysis techniques, types of hazard controls, industry standards, types of hazardous materials, medical surveillance, and incidence rates within the industry. Skills involved in this domain will include using computers and the Internet, conducting interviews, written and verbal communication, performing audits, and using sampling equipment.

The fourth domain on the test is disaster planning and emergency response. This domain will make up 14% of the test content. Identifying different types of emergencies, determining the chances of certain emergencies occurring, creating emergency plans, and testing emergency plans on a regular basis are all examples of tasks you will likely be tested on in this domain. Some examples of knowledge you should have in this domain are federal, state, and local regulations, system failures, risk assessment techniques, organizational structures, fire safety, natural disasters, electronic security, and emergency equipment. Skills that fall into this domain are written and verbal communication, performing statistical analyses, planning, and fostering teamwork.

The fifth domain of the OHST/CLCS exam is professional responsibility. 4% of the exam will cover this domain. The basic tasks that fall into this category are related to the BCSP Code of Ethics or the BCSP Technician and Technologist Code of Ethics, understanding when discipline is warranted and knowing about disciplinary procedures, and joining work activities that facilitate in developing standards of professionalism.

The tasks, knowledge sets, and skills listed as related to the various test domains are not definitive; they are merely a starting point for study. Questions may be drawn from other tasks or knowledge sets, but they will be similar to those delineated here.

OHST/CLCS Exams: Eligibility and the Application Process

The Occupational Health and Safety Technologist (OHST) exam and the Certified Loss Control Specialist (CLCS) exam are almost identical. They both have the same eligibility requirements a potential candidate must meet, and they both have the same application process. The application form is even the same for both of them. In terms of eligibility, an applicant must meet requirements related to work experience and moral character. If the candidate has not met the work experience requirements, it is possible to substitute educational experience of a certain level.
It is necessary that an applicant has spent 5 years working in the field of occupational health and safety activities before qualifying to take the exam. This work experience must come after the applicant has obtained a high school diploma or GED, and at least 35% of the duties entailed in the job must directly relate to occupational health and safety. The job can be done on a part-time or full-time basis.

It is possible to meet certain educational requirements and qualify if you have not met the work experience requirements. Some types of degrees may be substituted for the full 5 years of work experience, and some may only be substituted for part of that time period. If you have more than one degree, only the highest one achieved will be considered. An associate’s degree, bachelor’s degree or master’s degree in an Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET) accredited health and safety program will substitute for the full 5 years of work experience. An associate’s degree, bachelor’s degree or master’s degree in a health and safety program that is not ABET-accredited will count for 4 years of work experience. An associate’s degree in a technical or science field or a bachelor’s or master’s degree in another field will substitute for 2 years of work experience. Finally, an associate’s degree in another field that is not science-related will substitute for 1 year of work experience.
In order to qualify for the OHST/CLCS exam, a candidate must also be of sound moral character. Eligibility on this level will be demonstrated through the assertions of professional references you will include with your application.

If you meet all eligibility requirements, continue with the application process. Find the application for the OHST/CLCS exam in the OHST/CLCS Candidate Handbook. Fill out this form as instructed by the directions. Send in the application form, experience forms documenting all work experience counting towards your eligibility, the name and contact information of at least two references who can vouch for your work experience, professionalism, and moral character, student transcripts if you are substituting college education for part of your work experience requirement, and the mandatory $140 fee. You can pay this fee with a check, money order, or credit card. When you are filling out the application form, make sure you check the appropriate box indicating whether you are applying for the OHST exam or CLCS exam.

Within a few weeks of applying you should find out if you have been approved for a testing seat. If you are approved, you will have a 3 year time window in which to register for and take the test. After this time is up, you will have to start over with the application process. When you receive your notification of approval for a testing seat, you will also receive instructions on how to register online for an exam location, date, and time.

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