Agricultural Inspector

The Job and What's Involved

Agricultural inspectors work for a number of agencies such as the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) and the Health and Safety Executive. They are responsible for ensuring that government set standards are met and maintained. They monitor procedures and enforce regulations in agriculture, particularly farms.

The role varies from agency to agency. As an inspector working for the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) the emphasis is on health and safety in the workplace. Modern farms use a lot of heavy machinery and it is essential that safe practice policies are adhered to, ensuring the safety of the employees. HSE inspectors visit farms and other agricultural premises to:

  • Check machinery and premises.
  • Investigate accidents and complaints.
  • Ensure that current legislation is being followed.
  • Compile reports on their findings and make recommendations where necessary.
  • Follow up on inspections.

Defra sets legislation, policy, regulations and guidance for issues around animal health and welfare including identification, transportation and disease control. A Defra inspector:

  • Ensures that current legislation is being followed.
  • Collects and analyses data on agricultural premises and holdings.
  • Plans for the prevention, control and eradication of disease in farming.

Food assurance scheme inspectors visit agricultural premises ensure that Assured Food Standards are being met. Tasks include:

  • Inspect the health and welfare of livestock such as sheep, pigs and cows.
  • Check the feed and housing.
  • Check animal identifications and veterinary treatments.

If the farm meets the Assured Food Standard (known as the Red Tractor) the inspector is able to issue the farm with certification and a seal of approval.

Inspectors are sometimes required to give evidence in court.

Inspectors usually work a standard 37-hour week, but must be prepared for this to include working evenings or weekends if necessary.

The work is office based, but typically around three days a week may be spent visiting workplaces. This can involve frequent travel and occasional absence from home. A driving licence is essential.

Depending on the workplace being visited, conditions may be dirty, smelly or dangerous. Inspectors may be working outdoors in all weathers for a lot of the time. Protective clothing may be worn.

Inspectors employed by the Health and Safety Executive are expected to take up a post anywhere in the country. Career breaks, part-time work, and job sharing may be available after the initial training period.

Trainee inspectors start on around £26,000 a year. With experience, the salary may rise to between £31,000 and £37,000.

Depending on the area of specialism an experienced inspector may earn between £40,000 and £50,000 or more.

Salaries may be higher in London. Inspectors employed by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and other government agencies are eligible for a Civil Service pension.

Getting Started with this Career Choice

There is fierce competition for posts as trainee inspectors. Vacancies are advertised in the national and specialist press, and on the Civil Service jobs website at www.civilservice.gov.uk/jobs.

Applicants for government agency jobs need to be UK nationals, Commonwealth citizens or European Economic Area (EEA) nationals. They may be required to have a medical examination.

Education and Training

The usual entry requirement is a degree or equivalent qualification. Entry to a degree is usually with a minimum of two A levels and five GCSE's (A*-C) or the equivalent.

Useful subjects are physical, mathematical and applied sciences, environmental health, and engineering.

People without a degree may be considered if they have two years of relevant work experience and can demonstrate an equivalent level of achievement through work-based learning and/or other professional or academic qualifications. A background in engineering, technology or a scientific field can be an advantage.

People applying to HSE as a trainee health and safety inspector attend an assessment centre, where they have a competency-based interview followed by mechanical reasoning tests, an ability test, and a group discussion exercise.

A Few More Exams You Might Need

Most posts would include a two-year training period. Training consists of practical, on-the-job training, observing experienced inspectors as well as taking a series of short in-house courses before moving on to carrying out supervised site visits.

Inspectors undertake continuing professional development (CPD) throughout their careers in order to keep their knowledge and skills up to date.

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Skills and Personal Qualities Needed

Agricultural inspectors should:

  • Be able to influence and persuade others.
  • Have an enquiring mind and good observational skills.
  • Be able to pay attention to detail.
  • Have good communication skills.
  • Be able to work on their own and in a team.
  • Be able to remain calm under pressure.
  • Be able to write reports and keep records.
  • Be tactful and diplomatic.

Your Long Term Prospects

After several years experience it may be possible to move into a more senior role.

There may also be opportunities to move into related areas such as consultancy work and lecturing, or to move into industry as a safety adviser.

To progress in a government agency it may be necessary to be prepared to move to another region.

Get Further Information

Agricultural Development and Advisory Service (ADAS),
Woodthorne, Wergs Road, Wolverhampton WV6 8TQ
Tel: 0845 766 0085
Website: www.adas.co.uk

Assured Food Standards (AFS),
4th Floor, Kings Building, 16 Smith Square, London SW1P 3JJ
Tel: 020 7630 3320
Website: www.redtractor.org.uk

Chartered Institute of Environmental Health,
Chadwick Court, 15 Hatfields, London SE1 8DJ
Tel: 020 7928 6006
Website: www.cieh.org

Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra)
Tel: 08459 33 55 77
Website: www.gov.uk/government/organisations

Health and Safety Executive (HSE),
Head Office, Redgrave Court,
Merton Road, Bootle, Merseyside L20 7HS
Tel: 0845 345 0055
Website: www.hse.gov.uk

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