Health and Safety Inspector

The Job and What's Involved

Health and safety inspectors protect people's health and safety by making sure risks in the workplace are properly controlled.

They ensure that employers comply with all aspects of health and safety. This includes offices, factories, hospitals, food retailers, farms, construction sites and offshore oil and gas installations. It also covers nuclear installations and mines, the movement of dangerous goods and railway safety.

Health and safety inspectors often specialise in a particular area of work, but general tasks may include:

  • Visiting premises to investigate accidents, causes of ill-health and complaints.
  • Inspecting workplaces to enforce the law - in certain circumstances this may involve issuing improvement or prohibition notices and recommending prosecution.
  • Examining ways to improve health and safety standards.
  • Negotiating with managers and employees to provide a safe working environment.
  • Developing health and safety programmes and strategies.
  • Keeping up to date with the law and technical knowledge.
  • Writing reports.

Working hours are typically 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday, 36 to 37 hours a week. Inspectors must be prepared to work evenings or weekends if necessary.

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

Depending on the workplace being visited, conditions may be dirty, smelly, stressful or dangerous. Protective clothing may be worn.

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

Starting salaries may be around £21,000 a year.

Getting Started with this Career Choice

Health and safety inspectors are civil servants employed by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). In Northern Ireland, they are employed by the Health and Safety Executive for Northern Ireland (HSENI).

Around 1,100 health and safety inspectors work in 22 offices across England, Wales and Scotland. There are research laboratories in Derbyshire and headquarters in London and Merseyside.

There is fierce competition for posts as trainee inspectors. It is important that applicants learn as much as they can about the HSE. One way to do this is to visit a local HSE office, if possible. Vacancies are advertised in the national and specialist press, and on the HSE website.

Applicants need to be UK nationals, Commonwealth citizens or European Union (EU) nationals. They may be required to have a medical.

Education and Training

The usual entry requirement is a degree or equivalent qualification. In Northern Ireland, applicants need a degree in engineering or science, and two years' relevant postgraduate experience.

Entry to a degree is usually with a minimum of two A levels/three H grades and five GCSE's/S grades (A-C/1-3), or the equivalent.

People without a degree may be considered if they have two years' relevant work experience and can demonstrate an equivalent level of achievement through work-based learning and/or other professional qualifications.

People applying to the Civil Service as a health and safety inspector are required to undergo an interview, do written tests and ability tests, and take part in a group discussion exercise.

A Few More Exams You Might Need

Newly recruited health and safety inspectors follow a two-year training period, the first year of which is probationary. The training programme involves both practical training on the job and short in-house courses. Trainees work towards NVQ/SVQ Level 5 in Health and Safety Regulation.

In the first year, trainees gain experience of practical work by accompanying an experienced inspector on site visits. They then carry out site visits and write reports under the supervision of an experienced inspector.

Trainees are appointed to area offices throughout the UK, normally gaining experience in two of these. They may also gain experience with a national interest group responsible for a particular industry in the UK, and possibly become involved in developing national standards and regulations. During this time they make a number of contacts with a range of people and organisations. These include safety advisers, company managers and trade unions, both at home and within the EU and International Labour Organisation (ILO).

Once qualified, inspectors attend frequent courses to update their knowledge and skills.

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Skills and Personal Qualities Needed

Health and safety inspectors need:

  • An enquiring mind and good powers of observation.
  • To pay attention to detail.
  • Good communication skills and the ability to relate to a wide range of people.
  • Qualities such as patience, persistence, resilience, tact and diplomacy.
  • To be able to work on their own and in a team.
  • To remain calm under pressure.
  • Good judgement and the ability to make decisions.
  • To be able to write reports and keep records.
  • A good level of health and fitness, as occasionally the work may involve climbing ladders and going over obstacles.

Your Long Term Prospects

After completing their initial training, health and safety inspectors can transfer to different posts within the HSE. New posts may require a move to a different part of the country, and inspectors may have to relocate every three to five years to continue to progress. There may be opportunities to be promoted to principal inspector.

Promotion to senior management level can be achieved after wide and substantial experience. Inspectors may also transfer to other branches of the HSE such as the Health and Safety Commission (HSC).

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.

Get Further Information

British Safety Council,
70 Chancellors Road, London W6 9RS
Tel: 020 8741 1231

Civil Service Careers

Health and Safety Executive (HSE), Rose Court,
2 Southwark Bridge, London SE1 9HS
Tel: 020 7556 2100

Health and Safety Executive for Northern Ireland (HSENI),
83 Ladas Drive, Belfast BT6 9FR
Tel: 028 9024 3249

Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH),
The Grange, Highfield Drive, Wigston, Leicestershire LE18 1NN
Tel: 0116 257 3100

The National Examination Board
in Occupational Safety and Health (NEBOSH),
Dominus Way, Meridian Business Park, Leicester LE19 1QW
Tel: 0116 257 3100

The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA),
RoSPA House, Edgbaston Park, 353 Bristol Road,
Edgbaston, Birmingham B5 7ST
Tel: 0121 248 2000

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