What is the Role of an Occupational Health and Safety Inspector?

Occupational Health and Safety InspectorThe role of an occupational health and safety inspector is to see to the safety and health of workers and to prevent harm to property, the environment and the public. Workplace accidents are costly both to the employer and the worker. More important than the expenses incurred, the effect on the worker could be serious enough to affect him or her for a lifetime or even result in death. Employees have the right to work in a safe environment, and this is where the role of the health and safety inspector comes in.

Occupational Safety and Health Administration

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration is the federal agency within the Department of Labor that assures “safe and healthful working conditions for working men and women by setting and enforcing standards and by providing training, outreach, education and assistance.” The law that created this agency in 1970, and its numerous amendments, established the rights and responsibilities of employers and employees and the standards that employers must follow to protect their workers from hazards.

The Work of the Occupational Health and Safety Inspector

A third of specialists in this field work for either the federal, state or local government. The remaining two thirds are employed in various public or private organizations such as hospitals, schools, manufacturing or insurance companies, other business organizations, or with scientific and technical consulting services.

The work of the health and safety inspector can be summarized as follows:

• Inspecting – Inspecting can be triggered by a catastrophe or hazardous situation or initiated by a worker complaint. The inspector will conduct a thorough study by examining the work environment, equipment and practices to determine whether safety standards and government regulations are being adhered to.

• Documenting – Investigating accidents or health-related complaints; collecting samples of hazardous materials; gathering all relevant information and maintaining accurate records.

• Reporting – Holding a closing conference with the employer to discuss the findings and the course of action the employer can take. Reporting the findings from an inspection to the superiors and appropriate agencies.

• Taking necessary actions – In the case of threats to workers’ health and safety, ordering suspension of activities.

• Creating safe environments – Designing programs to prevent injury or disease to workers or damage to the environment.

• Consulting/Teaching –Providing consultation and training on safety, emergency preparedness, compliance procedures and other relevant topics.

Education and Job Outlook

The job of the occupational health and security inspector generally requires a bachelor’s degree and, on top of that, some on-the-job training. There are a number of colleges that provide bachelor’s level programs in occupational health and safety. Other related programs may be called industrial hygiene, environmental protection, ergonomics and the like. However, a college major in these subjects is generally not a requirement. Majors in sciences, health science, engineering or related subjects may also qualify an applicant.
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Other degree levels in occupational health and safety include the Associate of Science Degree which qualifies those completing these programs to work on a technician level. Graduate degrees at the master’s or doctoral levels are generally sought by experienced specialists to advance in their career opportunities. At these levels, specialists may work in leadership, teaching and research roles.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics lists the job outlook for occupational health and safety specialists at seven percent growth between 2012 and 2022, which is below the average for all occupations. However, they also predict that technological advances in the use of new machinery in manufacturing, increasing use of nuclear energy, increasing insurance company needs, and the retiring population of present specialists will boost the outlook.

All in all, the occupational health and security inspector occupation is a necessary and vital part of the work world of the future. The student who prepares broadly by taking related courses such as chemistry, physics, environmental sciences, computer technology, management, leadership and communication skills, etc., will place himself or herself in an excellent position as new opportunities arise.

The best qualification for this occupation is to have a strong desire to protect the health and safety of others. More than the training, knowledge and skills, this motivation is what brings true effectiveness to the job. If you can see yourself in the role of an occupational health and safety inspector, you should go for it.