SSHO Meaning: What is an SSHO?

ssho construction

If you're in the business of managing construction safety and health, you may have come across job listings for something called an "SSHO." If you've only dealt with civilian contracts in the past, you're probably not familiar with this acronym. But the job seems to be in line with your skills, and it pays well.

So you're probably asking yourself, what is an SSHO?

What is "SSHO" in Construction?

SSHO stands for Site Safety and Health Officer. An SSHO is a qualified competent person who is responsible for on-site safety and health.

Not all construction sites will have an SSHO. It's a special requirement for government and military contractors.

When is a Site Safety and Health Officer Necessary?

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) has safety and health requirements that go beyond the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) standards that govern civilian construction personnel.

USACE's safety and health regulations are laid out in Engineering Manual (EM) 385-1-1. These standards apply to any federally funded project, including those carried out (in part or in full) by civilian contractors.

The requirement for an SSHO is one of the big differences between EM 385-1-1 and OSHA §1926. Each federally funded construction site needs at least one Site Safety and Health Officer to be EM 385 compliant.

In addition to the primary SSHO, a project can have an Alternate SSHO with the same qualifications and responsibilities. This may be necessary when work proceeds in multiple shifts, but it's mandatory if the primary SSHO will be off-site for longer than 24 hours.

16-hour EM 385-1-1 USACE Safety & Health


24-hour EM 385-1-1 USACE Safety & Health


40-hour EM 385-1-1 USACE Safety & Health


8-hour EM 385-1-1 USACE Safety & Health


What Does a Site Safety and Health Officer Do?

A Site Safety and Health Officer ensures that a contractor complies with all parts of EM 385-1-1.

This includes duties like:

  • Assisting in the creation of site-specific documents required by EM 385-1-1, like an Accident Prevention Program (APP) and Activity Hazard Analysis (AHA).
  • Working on the contractor's project management team to ensure that the APP and AHA are implemented, continuously monitored, and enforced.
  • Conducting safety training for all personnel, including new employee orientation, refresher training, toolbox talks, and on-the-spot training.
  • Ensuring that activities comply with OSHA and EM 385-1-1 regulations, as well as company policy, insurance requirements, and any other applicable standards.
  • Review subcontractor and third-party safety policies and coordinate compliance with site safety procedures.
  • Conducting regular site inspections as required by EM 385-1-1, recording violations, and arranging for remediation (as well as completing all related reports, documentation, and paperwork).
  • Coordinating a response to any on-site emergency, which includes interfacing with off- and on-site ER personnel
  • Investigates any incidents involving personal injury, property damage, safety violations, or unsafe working conditions.
  • Developing new safety policies, refining existing policies, and modifying design requirements with the management team.

SSHO is a full-time dedicated role – meaning SSHO can't be an add-on title for a person who has unrelated responsibilities. The safety of the site should be their entire focus. EM 385-1-1 explicitly says that the supervisor may not serve as the SSHO.

SSHOs report directly to a senior project or corporate official. They're required to be present on-site during shifts and have sufficient access to every major work operation.

How Much Money Does an SSHO Make?

According to ZipRecruiter, the national average salary for an SSHO is $81,223 a year, with most salaries ranging between $70,000 and $102,000.

How to Become an SSHO

Becoming a Site Safety and Health Officer doesn't involve a single certification or college degree. It's something you have to build up to during your career in the construction industry.

Step 1: Build Up the Right Experience

EM 385-1-1 regulations require a primary or alternate SSHO to produce proof of either:

  • 5 continuous years of construction industry safety employment (ie, supervising or managing general construction by managing safety programs/processes, conducting hazard analyses, and developing controls), OR
  • 5 continuous years of similar employment in general industry, OR
  • 4 years of experience with one of the above, in conjunction with third-party SOH-related certification that is nationally accredited (through ANSI or NCCA)

Of course, before you can gain experience with safety responsibilities, you typically need to work your way up from other construction duties. As a result, SSHOs usually have a decade or more of construction experience.

Beyond safety experience, some employers require a certain number of years working on DOD or federals projects. It's not a regulatory requirement, but it makes sense that an employer would want an SSHO who has worked in compliance with EM 385-1-1 standards.

Step 2: Consider Getting a Safety Degree

There's no regulatory requirement for a degree in occupational safety or a related field.

However, some employers require or show hiring preference for candidates with such a degree. If you're having trouble breaking in as an SSHO, a degree could help.

Step 3: Get SSHO Certification

Before you apply for your first SSHO job, you need to complete the required certification(s).

We've talked in the past about how OSHA 30 isn't really a certification and OSHA hates when people call it that. Regardless, you'll hear about how "OSHA certification" or "SSHO certification" is a necessary qualification.

As a minimum amount of training, EM 385-1-1 requires an SSHO to have proof of completion for one of the following:

OSHA 30-Horas Curso en Español Para Construcción

189 159

OSHA 30-Horas Curso en Español Para Industría General

189 159

OSHA 30-Hour Construction Training Course

189 159

OSHA 30-hour General Industry Training Course

189 159

One note: although USACE regulations allow for General Industry OSHA certification, it's best to take Construction if possible. After all, you'll need to follow Construction standards, and the rules for General Industry vary from Construction on some topics.

Most employers will also require you to complete the 40-hour EM 385-1-1 training to be considered a qualified SSHO. You might see this referred to as "SSHO Certification," instead of OSHA training. You'll need an 8-hour refresher training every year.

This 40-hour course is not really an explicit requirement in the regulations, but it's an almost universal expectation among employers. That makes sense, right? If your whole job will be to enforce EM 385, you need to be very familiar with its provisions.

If your work is going to include a Hazardous Toxic Radioactive Waste (HTRW) site, then you'll also need 40-Hour HAZWOPER training.

Prospective employers may require other certifications or training outside of regulatory requirements. They may require you to have current First Aid/CPR/AED training, USACE Quality Control Management training, and more.

Job listings may also specify a time frame for required training, like "within the last 5 years."

Pay attention to the individual listings' requirements and meet them as best you can.

Need SSHO Certification? You're in the Right Place!

EM 385-1-1 says SSHO certification "may be web-based training if the student is able to directly ask questions of the instructor by chat or phone."

As an OSHA-authorized online training provider with a long history of excellent service, we can help you complete the qualifying certifications to become an SSHO, including EM 385 training, OSHA certification, and even HAZWOPER. Enroll today!