So health and safety inspectors might be the butt of some jokes or prompt the much overused phrase “it’s health and safety gone mad”, but believe us these guys do some pretty important work.
Nope, that’s not banning the use of dangerous looking pencils, but working hard to ensure that workplaces won’t be the cause of ill health, injury or even death. Health and safety inspectors can literally be lifesavers.
Let’s delve into the nitty-gritty of what a health and safety inspector actually does. The majority work for the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), a government run organisation under the Department of Work and Pension’s remit. They might work for the general team or specialise in a particular industry, like nuclear, construction or forestry.
True to their name, they inspect businesses and organisations to ensure that health and safety standards are being met. This might involve examining machinery, taking measurements of noise and air pollution and looking at the precautions taken to avoid industrial diseases.
Their work is of an investigative nature too; they’ll look into accidents, complaints and current procedures, collecting information and data, and where necessary they will also instigate a plan of action. When prosecutions actually take place, they might be called upon to give evidence in court.
Health and safety inspectors will devise health and safety programmes and initiatives to avoid the repetition of accidents and limit the effect of work place hazards. They’ll negotiate with employers to ensure health and safety standards are met and might provide training and education. In short, it’s a busy and varied role.
Salary & benefits
Starting salaries for trainee health and safety inspectors might be between £24,000 and £27,000. With plenty of experience, this salary could rise to around £35,000 to £50,000, whilst those in senior positions might earn up to £70,000 per annum.
Most health and safety inspectors will work a standard working week, usually nine-to-five, Monday to Friday.
This is a career that is open to graduates of all disciplines, but if you’ve got your heart set on becoming a health and safety inspector from the get go, a degree in environmental health, physical and applied sciences, or engineering might put you at an advantage.
If you’re looking to specialise in certain areas then you might need a specific degree, a relevant postgraduate qualification and work experience or chartered membership of a relevant professional institution.
The majority of health and safety inspectors work for the HSE. Competition is usually fierce for traineeship posts.
Training & progression
Starting out as a trainee with the HSE will usually involve a two-year training period on the job, completion of a NVQ level 4 in Occupational Health and Safety Regulation, and perhaps a Postgraduate Diploma in Occupational Health.
Most trainees begin shadowing experienced health and safety inspectors before striking out on their own. They might learn the (health and safety) ropes in a particular industry and could eventually go on to become a specialist health and safety inspector.
Training never really stops for a health and safety inspector. Throughout their career, they are expected to keep abreast of developments in their line of work.