Becoming a Safety Inspector: Job Description & Salary Info

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What are the pros and cons of a career as a safety inspector? Get real job descriptions, career prospects and salary information to see if becoming a safety inspector is for you.
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Pros and Cons of Becoming a Safety Inspector

Safety inspectors, those working as both health and safety technicians and health and safety specialists, generally make sure that workplaces and structures are in good condition. Learn the pros and cons of the field to see if becoming a safety inspector is right for you.

PROS of a Safety Inspector Career
Degree not necessarily required*
Can work for yourself*
Can find work nationwide*
Chance to help protect people's safety*

CONS of a Safety Inspector Career
Have to travel a lot*
Work can be dangerous*
Hours are sometimes long*
Job can be physically demanding*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Career Information

Job Description

Safety inspectors perform a variety of duties to ensure that workplaces, building sites and structures are secure. They also often train workers to identify hazards in the workplace. During inspections, they look for chemical, physical or biological hazards and collect samples of potentially toxic materials. Technicians often work in conjunction with specialists who are better trained for identifying hazardous materials and situations. They also work with employers or builders to correct those problems.

Though the goal of safety inspectors is to prevent accidents from happening, they sometimes are called in to investigate after an accident has happened in the workplace. During these investigations they try to discern the cause of the accidents and recommend changes to ensure they don't happen again in the future. Safety inspectors must have good communication skills in order to make recommendations and conduct safety training. While most inspectors work 40 hours per week, they can be called upon to work longer days during emergencies.

Job Growth and Salary

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the growth rate for occupational health and safety specialists is expected to increase by 7% from 2012 to 2022, which is slower than average nationwide. On the other hand, the BLS reports that employment of safety technicians will grow by 11% during the same period, or about as fast as average compared to all other employment. The growth of nuclear energy as a power source is expected to increase the need for safety inspectors. Many companies now operate with fewer specialists and more technicians for budgetary reasons.

In May 2014, the BLS reported the average salary for safety technicians was about $51,000, with the highest 10% taking home more than $77,000 per year. Because safety specialists must complete formal education and require more specialized training, their salaries reflect that. The BLS reports that the median salary for specialists in this field in May 2014 was about $70,000, with the highest 10% collecting more than $101,000 per year.

What Are the Requirements?

To become a safety specialist, you should pursue a bachelor's degree in an area such as occupational health and safety or a related field. Coursework should cover engineering, chemistry and biology. Some particularly complex safety specialist positions require candidates with a master's degree. However, safety technicians can begin their careers without any education beyond high school, though obtaining an associate's degree or training certificate is recommended. Many technicians learn their careers through on-the-job training programs led by safety specialists. Specialists and technicians both usually continue training throughout their careers to stay up-to-date on new rules and regulations.

The most important requirement for success as a safety inspector is experience. To become a specialist, you may have to start your career as a technician until you gain the necessary experience to move up in the field.

Get Certified

Some states and employers require that inspectors obtain certification, such as a Construction Health Safety Technician Certificate, Safety Trained Supervisor Certificate or Occupational Health and Safety Technologist Certificate. Find out what your region requires before you begin your training in this field.

Job Postings from Real Employers

Though some employers provide on-the-job training, many require a four-year degree and experience working as a technician or specialist. To give you an idea of the varied skills and experience employers seek, the following are real job postings available in May 2012:

  • A public school system in Virginia was seeking a safety inspector to ensure that all of the school district's construction projects addressed safety properly, including environmental, staff and student safety. The position required a bachelor's degree in the field as well as five years of experience. Applicants holding a master's degree only needed one year of experience.
  • A safety survey company was looking for an insurance safety inspector in Iowa. The inspector would be an independent contractor who would travel to various sites to inspect hazards and controls through interviews and inspections, taking photos and preparing diagrams and making recommendations on whether the companies' insurance policies should be approved or renewed. While some level of experience was required, a bachelor's degree was preferred.
  • A national roofing company based in Dallas, Texas, was hiring a safety inspector who would travel throughout the country and go on the road three to four weeks per month. The job involved conducting roof inspections and accident investigations, providing training for workers and issuing stop-work orders. The company provided training, and no college degree was required.
  • A transportation construction company in Pennsylvania sought a safety inspector to inspect bridges to make sure they meet state safety requirements. The successful applicant needed strong mathematical skills, computer knowledge and the ability to identify and solve problems. The job demanded crouching, crawling and lifting heavy objects. A bachelor's degree in engineering and two years of bridge inspection experience were required.

How to Stand Out

Though many companies train their safety inspectors, the best way to get noticed in the field is to have experience. As technicians and specialists gain broader knowledge of proper investigations, rules and regulations and changing techniques, they become more valuable to potential employers. Experience can also be gained through continuing education courses offered by professional organizations and agencies.

Joining a professional organization, such as the American Society of Safety Engineers, can help boost your chances for success in this career. Members gain valuable networking opportunities and can access job listings. They can attend events that provide the latest information on developments within the field, which can help increase their chances at getting a job as a safety inspector.

Specialize

Aspiring safety inspectors who focus their training in a specific area, such as bridge safety or nuclear power, will stand out when they seek positions in those particular areas of the field. A degree in structural engineering, for example, will increase your chances for getting a job as a bridge safety inspector. Those with expertise in biological hazards are more likely to land opportunities as a food safety inspector. Certain organizations, such as the Board of Certified Safety Professionals, acknowledge a wide range of safety inspection specializations. You can earn certification in areas such as Graduate Safety Professional or Occupational Health and Safety Technologist.

Other Career Paths

Construction or Building Inspector

If you'd like to earn more than a safety technician without the education or experience needed to become a specialist, consider becoming a construction or building inspector. These professionals ensure that new construction, expansions or remodeling projects are compliant with local and federal regulations and codes. They may inspect buildings, roadways, water and sewer systems. Though only a high school degree is required, most inspectors must pass a licensing examination or earn certification. The BLS reports that career opportunities are expected to grow by about 8% between 2010 and 2020. The median annual wage for building and construction inspectors was $53,000 as of May 2011, according to the BLS.

Environmental Science and Protection Technician

For a comparable salary but a much higher job outlook, consider a career as an environmental science and protection technician. The job involves monitoring the environment to identify sources of pollution or contamination - often under the supervision of an environmental scientist. In this role, you would collect samples for analysis, set up testing equipment, prepare charts and present your findings. Most employers prefer you to have at least an associate's degree. According to the BLS, career opportunities for environmental science and protection technicians are expected to grow by 24% from 2010 through 2020. Median salaries for environmental science and protection technicians were about $42,000 as of May 2011.

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Kaplan University

  • Master of Public Health
  • Bachelor: Health Science
  • AAS in Public Safety and Security

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Purdue University

  • Master of Public Health

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The George Washington University

  • MSHS Medical Laboratory Sciences
  • MSHS in Immunohematology and Biotechnology
  • MSHS in Molecular Diagnostic Sciences

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Colorado State University Global

  • Graduate Specialization - Healthcare Administration
  • MS - Healthcare Admin and Management
  • BS - Healthcare Admin and Management

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Northcentral University

  • MS - Organizational Leadership: Health Care Administration

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Grand Canyon University

  • EdD in Organizational Leadership - Health Care Administration
  • MS in Nursing: Public Health
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Regent University

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  • Bachelor of Science in Professional Studies - Leadership Studies

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Trident University

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