Do you reckon you’ve got the attention to detail, meticulous nature and observation skills to have a great career as a health and safety inspector? Then this quick guide should hopefully get you one step onto the ladder (wearing appropriate head protection and safety harness of course).
What is a health and safety inspector?
What a silly question, it’s a person who inspects health and safety right? Well, that’s the basic premise, but of course theres a whole lot more to the role than walking around with a clipboard telling people things aren’t safe. In a nutshell, a health and safety inspector is someone who is involved in the protection of people’s safety, by making sure that risks in the workplace and in public places are subject to thorough and effective control.
Despite the fact that the role sounds fairly straightforward, it actually has the potential to be quite varied and could see you working within a wide range of environments and with lots of different people. Some of the things that you could be expected to do on a day-to-day basis include;
- Paying visits to all manner of business premises and public areas to inspect processes and procedures, ensuring that they adhere to optimum health and safety practices
- Playing a key role in the investigation of accidents and complaints regarding health and safety
- Undertaking inspection of machinery within working environments
- Recording noise, temperature and vibration levels to see if they fall within legislation and guidelines
- Making sure that all employees have been properly equipped with protective equipment and clothing appropriate for the environment in which they are working
- Thorough inspection of all potentially hazardous environments
- Investigating processes and procedures connected to potentially hazardous material, and ensuring that these are appropriate and within regulations
- Constantly maintaining and updating knowledge about health and safety law/regulation
- Acting in a consultative capacity with regards to health and safety practices when requested
- Completing reports on and presenting the findings of your investigations
- Deciding the course of action which must be taken in order to ensure the safety of workers and / or the public
- Carrying out risk assessments which highlight all reasonable health and safety hazards which can be addressed
- Acting in an educational role to deliver health and safety training to staff
Skills and Attributes
Given that the role of health and safety inspector is quite a specific one, you won’t be surprised to learn that there are a number of skills and attributes which should come in very useful. This is by no means an exhaustive list, but it should at least give you a general idea of the things you should be seeking to develop;
- A demonstrable interest in public and occupational health and safety issues
- Outstanding levels of written and verbal communication are absolutely essential
- Ability to work both as an effective member of a team and independently
- Outstanding skills of observation and a meticulous and methodical approach to work activities
- A clear understanding of the extreme importance of the work that you will carry out and the consequences to people’s health and safety should you miss anything
- A desire and ability to travel to lots of different locations to carry out inspections
- The ability to work in many different environments which may include being outdoors in all weather conditions
- Excellent general IT and administration skills
- Highly organised with the ability to plan your work well in advance
- The ability to work swiftly and accurately, often to deadlines.
The vast majority of health and safety inspectors working in the UK today are employees of the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and the salaries which they receive are pretty much uniform across the organisation, depending on the level of experience that you have. Salaries for trainee inspectors usually begin at around £26,000 rising to around £29,000 once all of the training has been completed. As you progress through the ranks you can expect that your salary will increase accordingly. For example, after around 5 years you could reasonably expect to earn around £40,000 and this could rise to over £70,000 by the time you have reached the role of senior specialist. Salaries for health and safety inspectors working within private companies vary much more, so be sure to get in touch with the organisation in question before applying for a role. Working hours for health and safety inspectors generally fall within a typical office working pattern i.e. 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday, however there may well be times in which you are expected to work anti-social hours including evenings and weekends.
Qualifications and training
In the vast majority of cases, a degree is essential if you are to be considered for a trainee health and safety position, and quite often this must be a degree in a relevant field which has equipped you with the necessary technical knowledge to carry out inspections as thoroughly as possible. Some of the degree areas which are most commonly requested include physical and applied sciences, environmental health, food technology and engineering (including electronic/electrical, mechanical and environmental). Of course, the degree speciality which is requested will depend entirely upon the area of health and safety which you wish to work in.
A high level of mathematical proficiency including at the very least a GCSE in maths will most often also be requested.In some cases it is possible to be accepted for a trainee health and safety inspector role holding only a HND in a relevant area, but it will also be required that you have a certain level of professional experience in a similar role. Those entering a training programme to become a health and safety inspector must be prepared for an intensive and prolonged period of education and training before they become fully qualified to carry out the role.
The training which takes place following your admittance into a trainee position will be dependent on the company that you will working for. The HSE however has a very comprehensive and structured training regime which takes place over a two-year period. The vast majority of this training takes place ‘on the job’ and important skills and knowledge will be gained through mentorship and hands on experience. In most cases those taking part in the training will also be required to undertake a number of courses to help boost their knowledge, skills and understanding of the role. It is also usually the case that you will have to complete an NVQ/SVQ Level 4 in Occupational Health and Safety regulation as well as have a diploma in Occupational Health.
If you are still thinking of becoming a health and safety inspector, then best of luck, we hope that you have found this quick guide useful. However, if you think that maybe this is not where your heart truly lies, then take a look at our career directory, where you will find plenty of inspiration!