How Can I Become a Health and Safety Inspector?

Research what it takes to become a health and safety inspector. Learn about education requirements, job duties and licensure to find out if this is the career for you. Schools offering Public Health degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is a Health and Safety Inspector?

A health and safety inspector, also known as an occupational health specialist, evaluates work environments in a wide range of industries. They inspect facilities in order to identify potential workplace hazards for employees, and to ensure the quality and safety of the goods they produce. Inspectors assess conditions based on government regulatory standards, which can vary depending on the industry. After an inspection, they provide a report for the company in question, and they may offer advice on how to deal with any potential health and safety risks.

Read over the chart below to get an overview of this profession.

Degree Required Bachelor's degree
Education Field of Study Chemistry, occupational health and safety, biology, engineering
Training Required Short term on-the-job training; varies by work location
Key Skills Communication and problem solving skills, attention to detail, ability to stand for long periods of time
Job Growth (2014-2024) 4%*
Median Salary (2015) $70,210*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Kind of Training Is Involved?

Health and safety inspectors typically have backgrounds in the sciences, but must also be proficient with math and communication. While some inspectors are hired for jobs based on experience alone, most need a bachelor's degree to find employment. You can begin by taking math and science classes in high school and then go on to get a degree in:

  • Chemistry
  • Occupational safety and health
  • Biology
  • Engineering

You learn to spot dangerous environments and implement procedures to prevent illness or accidents, as well as circumstances that might negatively affect morale or mental health. These programs may include or encourage internships, which provide you with valuable hands-on experience. Once you are hired, you learn the evaluation system used by your employer and review the regulations you'll enforce.

If you wish to advance in your career, there are several certification options available through professional associations; they involve passing an exam and then meeting continuing education standards. You may also want to earn a graduate degree in health physics, industrial hygiene or a related field.

Who Employs Health and Safety Inspectors?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (www.bls.gov), private firms employed most health and safety inspectors as of 2014. In the private sector, you may work for yourself and/or employed by:

  • Manufacturers
  • Schools
  • Mines
  • Hospitals
  • Construction
  • Safety consulting firms

At the same time, around 29% of inspectors worked for governmental bodies. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) inspectors evaluate worksites to remedy any safety issues and to ensure that regulations are followed. In this federal-level position, you may levy fines in order to achieve compliance.

Other types of government work may involve evaluating worksites to make recommendations to employers or to ensure ongoing compliance with regulations. OSHA administers some state programs directly, while other states and municipalities either handle safety inspections independently or in conjunction with OSHA personnel.

What Are the Working Conditions?

You typically work a 40-hour week, though your job may include some irregular hours and overtime. Most inspectors leave their desks to do evaluations, and this may involve hours or days spent away from the office. As you are evaluating workplaces, you can expect to be exposed to the same physical, biological or chemical risks as the workers at the inspection site.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Another safety-related career option is a job as a fire inspector. These professionals assess industrial and residential buildings in order to identify potential fire hazards and make sure that they comply with government fire codes. After a fire has occurred, they may also play a role in the investigation process. Although the minimum educational requirement is a high school diploma, many of these professionals have previous work experience in fire service or policing. Another relevant possibility is a job as an environmental restoration planner. These professionals analyze areas that have been negatively affected by pollution, designing restorative solutions in order to protect the health of both humans and the ecosystem as a whole. The minimum educational requirement for this job is a bachelor's degree.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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