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Be a Health, Safety and Sanitation Inspector: Career Roadmap

Research the requirements to become a health, safety, and sanitation inspector. Learn about the job description and duties, and read the step-by-step process to start a career in health, safety, and sanitation inspection. View article »

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  • 0:00 Health, Safety &…
  • 1:36 Earn a Bachelor's Degree
  • 3:07 Consider a Master's Degree
  • 3:49 Complete On-the-Job Training
  • 4:09 Become Certified

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Health, Safety, and Sanitation Inspectors

Health, safety, and sanitation inspectors are trained to identify hazards in the workplace and environment. These can include biological, chemical, radiological, or physical hazards. The job title of health, safety, and sanitation inspector isn't frequently used, and most professionals in the field use the job title of occupational health and safety specialist or occupational safety and health inspector. Other job duties for this career include collecting samples for analysis, investigating accidents, and making recommendations to ensure workplace environment safety.

Almost all occupational health and safety specialists work full-time. While most inspections take place during weekday business hours, some weekend or evening hours may be required if an emergency occurs. Inspectors are exposed to dangerous locations, equipment, and materials and must wear protective clothing and gear to minimize risk of illness and injury. These specialists work in a variety of locations, and fieldwork and travel are required.

Specialists should posses the following key skills:

  • Strong communication skills
  • Good attention to detail
  • Ability to use complex testing equipment to identify hazards
  • Knowledge of safety and occupational health concepts, principles, laws, and regulations

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual pay for all occupational health and safety specialists was $70,210 as of May 2015.

Earn a Bachelor's Degree

A bachelor's degree in occupational safety and health is typically required to find employment in this field. Students can also pursue a bachelor's degree in a related discipline, such as chemistry, biology, or engineering. Students enrolled in a bachelor's program in occupational safety and health will receive instruction on the ethical, legal, and professional duties in the workplace. They will also learn how to apply science, math, management, and technology to their employment. Common coursework for a bachelor's degree in occupational safety and health includes hazard control, fire prevention and protection, critical incident analysis, health and safety techniques, construction safety, and system safety analysis.

While an internship isn't required, some employers may prefer candidates who have completed an internship. Doing so will also provide an excellent opportunity to gain valuable work experience and become more familiar with the responsibilities of a professional in the field of health, safety, and sanitation inspection. Some bachelor's degree programs offer internship opportunities as a part of their curriculum. If an internship isn't a core requirement, students may want to consider pursuing an internship to gain hands-on experience in the field.

Candidates who develop excellent written and verbal communication skills will likely be competitive candidates when entering the job market. These skills are needed to communicate safety instructions and recommendations to managers and employees. To enhance these skills, students can take courses in public speaking, English, and psychology.

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Consider a Master's Degree

Although a bachelor's degree will qualify specialists for many jobs in the field of health, safety, and sanitation inspection, a master's degree may be required for some positions. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, positions related to health physics and industrial hygiene may require a master's degree to find employment in the field. Students enrolled in a master's program in industrial hygiene may take courses in environmental toxicology, essentials of public health, control of occupational hazards, and occupational ergonomics. A master's program in health physics may focus more on radiation detection, radiation physics, radiation regulations, and internal dosimetry.

Complete On-the-Job Training

Specialists must complete a considerable amount of on-the-job training. During this time, they will receive training regarding inspections and related laws, in addition to receiving training for specific work environments. This training period may last up to one year and is performed while under the supervision of an experienced professional.

Become Certified

While becoming certified is usually voluntary, experienced inspectors can improve their job prospects by earning professional certification. Several professional associations offer certification designations, including the Board of Certified Safety Professionals (BCSP) and the American Board of Industrial Hygiene (ABIH). To qualify for most certifications, inspectors must meet requirements regarding years of experience, education, and coursework, then successfully complete an examination.

Through the BCSP, inspectors can obtain the Certified Safety Professional (CSP) credential. The CSP certification is valid for a 5-year period. During this time, inspectors must accumulate 25 recertification points by participating in numerous activities, such as presenting at conferences, volunteering professional services, writing examination items, and having a safety-related paper or article published in a journal.

The ABIH offers the Certified Industrial Hygienist (CIH) credential. The CIH certification can be maintained by keeping an ethical practice, submitting a certification maintenance worksheet, and paying an annual fee. Rather than accumulating certification maintenance credits, inspectors can choose to retake the certifying examination.

Remember that health, safety, and sanitation inspectors usually need at least a bachelor's degree, but can improve their job prospects by earning a master's degree and becoming certified.

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