Posted On: February 2, 2024

How to Become a Site Safety & Health Officer (SSHO)

Do you have years of occupational safety experience under your belt? Is it about time for bigger and more exciting challenges?

If you’re ready to take your workplace compliance expertise to another level, then consider becoming a Site Safety and Health Officer (SSHO). Continue reading for a closer look at what SSHOs do and how to become one.

What Is an SSHO in Construction?

An SSHO is a Site Safety and Health Officer in the construction industry. They're the "superintendent or other qualified/competent person responsible for on-site safety and health." It's a high-level position that reports directly to senior management and operates with authority and access.

While most construction projects have their safety and health overseen by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), projects with federal funding are governed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) instead.

This is true even when civilian contractors are hired to do the work (which is common).

USACE's safety and health requirements are laid out in Engineering Manual (EM) 385-1-1, and they require every federally-funded construction site to have at least one SSHO who is full-time and wholly dedicated to safety compliance.

What Does an SSHO Do?

The primary SSHO on any federally funded construction site is responsible for the overall management, implementation, and enforcement of the contractor’s corresponding safety and health program.

That includes job responsibilities like:

  • Creating site-specific documents required by EM 385-1-1, including Activity Hazard Analyses (AHAs) and an Accident Prevention Program (APP)
  • Working with a contractor's project managers to make sure the APP and AHAs are implemented and continuously monitored
  • Developing new safety policies and modifying the site safety and health plan as needed
  • Organizing safety training for all personnel (e.g., new employee orientation, refresher training, and toolbox talks)
  • Ensuring that all on-site activity complies with all applicable regulations, requirements, and standards (e.g., OSHA, EM 385-1-1, company policy, and insurance requirements)
  • Conducting regular site inspections, recording violations, and remediating non-compliance
  • Coordinating emergency responses and interfacing with medical personnel
  • Investigating incidents involving personal injury, property damage, safety violations, or unsafe working conditions
  • Completing all reports, documentation, and paperwork related to the above

Essentially, a Site Safety and Health Officer makes sure that everyone on-site is in compliance with EM 385-1-1 safety standards, which are much stricter than OSHA's.

What Are EM 385-1-1's SSHO Requirements?

EM 385-1-1 requires the SSHO position to be a full-time responsibility with the necessary authority to perform their duties. SSHOs need sufficient access to every major work operation and are required to report directly to a senior project or corporate official.

EM 385 also specifies that the SSHO must "be an employee other than the supervisor" in order to prevent any distractions or conflicts of interest.

A Site Safety and Health Officer must be present on-site anytime work is being performed. Any time the SSHO will need to be off-site for longer than 24 hours, an Alternate SSHO (with the same qualifications) is mandatory.

Projects that require multiple shifts often have an Alternate SSHO to ensure coverage and prevent any logistical complications, but this isn't mandatory. Instead, you're allowed to use a Designated Representative (DR) as long as the SSHO's absence is never longer than 24 hours. Unlike SSHOs, DRs can be collateral duty safety personnel. That means they temporarily take on the SSHO's roles and responsibilities in addition to their full-time occupation.

USACE's Engineering Manual also lays out the required qualifications for an SSHO, meaning these are also the requirements for an Alternate SSHO.

How To Become An SSHO

To be eligible for the SSHO position (primary or alternate), you must meet the administrative, experience, and training requirements specified in Section 1.A.17 of the EM 385-1-1 manual.

SSHO Experience Requirements

SSHOs need to be able to show proof of employment for:

  • 5 years of consecutive construction industry experience in supervising or managing general construction (e.g., managing safety programs/processes, conducting hazard analyses, and developing safety controls), OR
  • 5 years of continuous experience in supervising/managing safety in general industry, OR
  • 4 years of experience in either industry plus a third-party ANSI or NCCA safety and occupational health certification.

SSHO Training Requirements

While EM 385-1-1 doesn't specify a certain amount of training specific to the USACE standards, many employers will require a 40-hour EM 385 course. This is sometimes (although inaccurately) referred to as "SSHO certification."

Additionally, EM 385-1-1's SSHO requirements include proof of completion for:

The USACE manual also requires SSHOs to complete 8 hours of documented training each year in health and safety training.

Get Your Construction SSHO Certification Online

EM 385 says that it's acceptable to meet your training requirements online as long as you're able to ask the instructor questions by phone or chat.

As a 20-year OSHA-authorized training provider, we have a great track record of providing effective online safety and health training. You can get your mandatory OSHA 30 card and your initial 40-hour EM 385-1-1 training in one place.

We can also help you keep up with your refresher requirements with our 8-hour USACE course!

Enroll today to advance your career!

Individual Course

OSHA 30-Hour General Industry Course

OSHA 30 Outreach general industry covers 29 CFR 1910 regulations. DOL card included.

189.00 159.99
Individual Course

40-Hour EM 385-1-1 Training (Updated for 2024)

Learn how to comply with the EM 385 manual and safely work on construction sites.

Individual Course

8-Hour EM 385-1-1 Refresher Training

Annual training for SSHOs or anyone who needs a refresher on the EM 385 manual.


What does an SSHO do?

In line with EM 385-1-1 regulations, contractors of federally funded projects are required to employ at least one SSHO on site. The primary SSHO is responsible for the overall management, implementation, and enforcement of the contractor’s corresponding safety and health program. Common job responsibilities include:

  • Conducting safety meetings and project-specific training
  • Inspecting site activities to identify and address safety or occupational health issues
  • Coordinating modifications to the site safety and health plan

How to become an SSHO?

To be eligible for contract work, the SSHO must meet the administrative, experience, and training requirements specified in Section 1.A.17 of the EM 385-1-1 manual. Highlights include:

Administration and reporting

  1. Being an SSHO is a full-time responsibility. During the shift, the SSHO must be present on site to have complete mobility and sufficient access to every major work operation.
  1. Unless specified otherwise in the contract and coordinated with the local safety and occupational health office, the SSHO must “be an employee other than the supervisor.”
  1. The SSHO must report to a senior project or corporate official.
  1. An alternate SSHO is allowed for projects with multiple shifts and must be provided if the primary SSHO is off-site for more than 24 hours. A designated representative may be used if the SSHO is temporarily off-site for less than 24 hours.


  1. The SSHO must have an instructor-signed copy of his or her OSHA 30-hour training card. The SSHO must have completed any of the following:
  • 30-hour OSHA general industry safety class or web-based training (provided that the student can ask direct questions to the instructor via chat or phone)
  • 30-hour OSHA construction industry safety class or web-based training (provided that the student can ask direct questions to the instructor via chat or phone)
  • An equivalent, formal construction or industry health and safety training that covers the topics of the OSHA 30-hour course and applicable EM 385-1-1 training. The equivalent training may be class-based or web-based (provided that the student can ask direct questions to the qualified instructor via chat or phone).
  1. To maintain competency, the SSHO must complete 8 hours of documented training each year—including formal, online, self-study, or related health and safety training. Accepted continuing education activities include, but are not limited to, writing professional articles, teaching a class, and participating in professional meetings.


The SSHO is also required to have any of the following proof of employment or experience:

  1. 5 years of continuous construction or industrial experience related to the supervision or management of safety programs, implementation of hazard analyses or development of safety controls.


  1. 4 years’ experience if the SSHO has a third-party, national accreditation related to safety and occupational health. *

Going through over 900 pages of the safety and health requirements can be overwhelming. But don’t worry! offers a 40-Hour EM 385-1-1 USACE Safety & Health course that satisfies the initial training requirements for aspiring SSHOs. Contact us to find out how you can learn the essentials of EM 385 in an easy, interactive online course. * Refer to the manual for a complete list of certifications.  

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