How to Become a Safety Inspector: Education and Career Roadmap

Learn how to become a safety inspector. Research the job duties and the education and licensing requirements, and find out how to start a career in safety inspecting.

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Do I Want to Be a Safety Inspector?

A safety inspector, sometimes called an occupational health and safety technician or specialist, examines and evaluates workplaces and practices to ensure compliance with state and federal regulations. This career involves extensive travel to inspect a wide range of settings, like factories, offices, hospitals, and schools.

Work as a safety inspector includes office hours, work in the field, and quite a bit of travel. Because most inspectors work for governments, job security is associated with this career. Inspectors may be exposed to a range of risks and must wear protective clothing and gear to ensure their personal safety while completing inspections. Inspectors primarily work full-time during the business day, although some nights and weekends may be required in an emergency.

Job Requirements

Entering this profession usually requires expertise in Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) standards, as well as completion of an undergraduate program followed by on-the-job training. Review the basic requirements for this career in the table below:

Common Requirements
Degree Level Some positions require no formal education*, though bachelor's degrees are common**
Degree Field Occupational health and safety, engineering or another similar subject*
Certification Voluntary certification is available through organizations like the Board of Certified Safety Professionals*
Experience About five years of experience related to safety inspection is generally required***
Key Skills Understanding of OSHA standards***, strong attention to detail*, problem-solving skills*, communication skills*, ability to stand for long periods of time*
Computer Skills Spreadsheets, compliance and auditing software, databases**
Technical Skills Workplace analysis tools, like air samplers and sampling pumps, gas detectors and leak detectors**

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **O*Net OnLine, ***CareerBuilder.com job listings in January 2013.

Step 1: Earn a Bachelor's Degree

Some safety inspector positions do not call for a postsecondary education, and some employers accept applicants who hold certificates or associate's degrees; however, many of these workers hold bachelor's degrees. A bachelor's degree program in occupational health and safety may include coursework in hazardous materials, industrial hygiene, OSHA standards and ergonomics. Other majors that may qualify one for a career in safety inspection include engineering, chemistry, biology or another relevant subject.

Success Tip:

  • Serve as an intern. Work experience is an important factor that employers take into consideration when selecting a safety inspector. Students can gain an edge over other aspiring inspectors by completing an internship in the occupational health and safety field during undergraduate school.

Step 2: Consider Earning a Graduate Degree

While a bachelor's is sufficient for most safety inspector jobs, select positions require a master's degree. Specifically, safety inspectors who specialize in health physics and industrial hygiene are commonly required to hold graduate degrees related to occupational health and safety. In fact, some schools offer master's degree programs specifically in health physics and industrial hygiene geared toward training students for these positions.

Step 3: Gain Safety-Standards Work Experience

According to job listings available on CareerBuilder.com in January 2013, employers tend to prefer applicants who have around five years of experience or more. This experience should be related to safety inspection and should have provided the applicant with a solid understanding of OSHA standards. One possible way aspiring inspectors can gain this experience is to volunteer to be responsible for health and safety duties at the business or organization in which they already work. For example, someone working at a small retail company could take charge of the yearly inspections.

Step 4: Train on the Job and Specialize

Safety inspectors can apply for employment with federal, state and local government agencies as well as healthcare facilities, consulting companies, manufacturers and various other types of organizations. Once hired, these workers go through moderate on-the-job training. Such training tends to focus on the specific types of work settings inspectors will evaluate. For example, a safety inspector specializing in factories will undergo training specific to factory health and safety regulations.

Step 5: Consider Getting Certified

While certification is not mandatory, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics stated that employers often prefer that applicants hold professional credentials. The Board of Certified Safety Professionals is one organization that offers a range of certifications for these workers, such as the Certified Safety Professional and Construction Health and Safety Technician credentials. Training and education requirements vary depending on the specific certification program, though all candidates must pass an exam and maintain certification regularly by earning continuing education credits.

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