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Health and Regulatory Inspectors

The Job

Because there are so many areas that require regulation, there are different types of specialists within the field of health and regulatory inspection who determine how compliance with laws can best be met. The following is a list of some of the major kinds of inspectors employed by the government:

Food and drug inspectors check firms that produce, store, handle, and market food, drugs, and cosmetics. Packaging must be accurately labeled to list contents, and inspectors perform spot checks to confirm this. The weight or measurement of a product must also be accurate. The inspectors use scales, thermometers, chemical testing kits, container-sampling devices, ultraviolet lights, and cameras to test various substances. They look for bacteriological or chemical contamination and assemble evidence if a product is harmful to the public health or does not meet other standards.

Food inspectors are empowered by state and federal law to inspect meat, poultry, and their by-products to verify these are safe for public consumption. In a slaughterhouse, the inspection team leader is always a veterinarian who can ensure that the animals are healthy. Proper sanitation, processing, packaging, and labeling are constantly inspected. Specialists concerned with raising animals for consumption and with processing meat and meat products include veterinary livestock inspectors, veterinary virus-serum inspectors, and veterinary meat inspectors.

Agricultural chemicals inspectors inspect establishments where agricultural service products such as fertilizers, pesticides, and livestock feed and medications are manufactured, marketed, and used. They may monitor distribution warehouses, retail outlets, processing plants, and private and industrial farms to collect samples of their products for analysis. If there is a violation, they gather information and samples for use as legal evidence.

Agricultural commodity graders ensure that retailers and consumers get reliable and safe commodities. They may specialize in cotton, dairy products, eggs and egg products, processed or fresh fruit or vegetables, or grains. For example, eggs must meet size and weight standards, dairy products must meet the standards set for butterfat content, and other products must meet standards of cleanliness and quality. The inspectors check product standards and issue official grading certificates. They also verify sanitation standards by means of regular inspection of plants and equipment.

Agricultural quarantine inspectors work to protect crops, forests, gardens, and livestock from the introduction and spread of plant pests and animal diseases. They inspect aircraft, ships, railway cars, and other transportation entering the United States for restricted or prohibited plant or animal materials. They also work to prevent the spread of agricultural disease from one state or one part of the country to another.

Agricultural-chemical registration specialists review and evaluate information on pesticides, fertilizers, and other products containing dangerous chemicals. If the manufacturers or distributors of the products have complied with government regulations, their applications for registration are approved.

Environmental health inspectors, also called sanitarians, work primarily for state and local governments to ensure that government standards of cleanliness and purity are met in food, water, and air. They may inspect processing plants, dairies, restaurants, hospitals, and other institutions. This involves the inspection of handling, processing, and serving of food and of the treatment and disposal of garbage, sewage, and refuse.

Finding the nature and cause of pollution means inspecting places where pollution might occur, testing for pollutants, and collecting samples of air, water, waste, and soil for analysis. The environmental health inspector initiates action to stop pollution and is vigilant to ensure that offenses are not repeated. In urban situations the environmental health inspector may specialize in just one area such as industrial waste inspection, water-pollution control, or pesticide control.

Environmental health inspectors in state or local agricultural or health departments may specialize in milk and dairy production, water or air pollution, food or institutional sanitation, or occupational health.

The category of health and safety inspectors also includes health care facilities inspectors, building code inspectors, boiler inspectors, furniture and bedding inspectors, marine-cargo surveyors, and mortician investigators.

Health inspectors may travel to a variety of sites such as restaurants and hospitals. The health inspectors in a processing plant generally work solely at that site, and the same may be true of dairy product inspectors and sewage processing plant inspectors. The work involves making reports to the government regulatory agency for which the inspector works, as well as to the management of the institution or company being inspected.

Regulatory inspectors perform work similar to health inspectors because both occupations involve protecting the public by enforcing laws and regulations relating to public health and safety.

Attendance officers, also known as truant officers, enforce the laws pertaining to compulsory education by investigating the continued absence of pupils from public schools.

Immigration and customs inspectors enforce the laws that regulate people and goods entering and leaving the country. Immigration inspectors prepare reports, process applications, and maintain records of people seeking to enter the United States. They interview and inspect passports to determine whether people are legally eligible to enter and live in the country. Passport-application examiners review and approve applications for U.S. passports.

Customs inspectors enforce the laws that regulate imports and exports. They inspect cargo at all points of entry to and exit from the United States to determine the amount of tax that must be paid and to check that no prohibited or dangerous goods enter or leave. Merchandise for delivery to commercial importers is examined by customs import specialists, who consider, in addition to legal restrictions, the amount of duty to be levied and such things as import quotas and trademark laws. Customs inspectors also inspect the baggage of people entering or leaving the country to ensure that proper taxes have been paid and all goods have been declared. Customs patrol officers conduct surveillance at points of entry into the United States to prohibit smuggling, detect customs violations, and protect our country against terrorism. Customs specialists work in the United States and throughout the world, at airports, seaports, and border crossings.

Transportation inspectors verify not only that vehicles meet safety requirements but also that the personnel who operate the equipment are properly trained to meet the standards regulated by law.

The regulations of the Federal Aviation Administration are enforced by aviation safety inspectors who usually specialize in general aviation or commercial aircraft. They inspect maintenance, manufacturing, repair, and operations procedures and also certify pilots, flight instructors, flight examiners, repair facilities, and schools. They are responsible for the quality and safety of aircraft equipment and personnel. State and local motor vehicle inspectors perform similar functions to ascertain safety and trained personnel in motor transportation. They also check truck cargoes for compliance with state limitations on weight and hazardous cargoes. Automobile testers check the safety and emissions of cars and trucks at state-operated inspection stations. Railroad inspectors have the same responsibility in their field and also investigate and prepare reports on accidents. In the maritime field, admeasurers take physical measurements of a ship and compute its capacity to determine the type of license, safety equipment, and fees required. Marine cargo inspectors inspect cargoes of sea-going vessels to ensure compliance with health and safety regulations in cargo handling and stowage.

Occupational safety and health inspectors enforce the regulations of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and of state and local governments. They are also employed in the private sector, where they have similar responsibilities. Their duties include inspecting machinery, working conditions, and equipment to ensure that proper safety precautions are used that meet government standards and regulations.

Safety health inspectors make regular visits and also respond to accident reports or complaints about a plant, factory, or other workplace by interviewing workers or management. They may suspend activity that poses a possible threat to workers. They write reports on safety standards that have been violated and describe conditions to be corrected. They discuss their findings with management to see that standards will be promptly met.

Mine safety and health inspectors enforce the laws and regulations that protect the health and safety of miners. They visit mines and related facilities and discuss their findings with the miners and management. They write reports describing violations and other findings and decisions and ensure that hazards and violations are corrected. Should a mine accident occur, such as an explosion or fire, the inspector may direct rescue operations and also investigate and report on conditions and causes.

Wage-hour compliance inspectors ensure that equal opportunity regulations, minimum wage and overtime laws, and conditions relating to the employment of minors are all met. They inspect personnel records and may also interview employees to verify time and payroll information. Compliance inspectors respond to complaints or may perform regular spot checks of a variety of employers.

Alcohol, tobacco, and firearms inspectors ensure compliance with laws governing taxes, competition, trade practices, and operating procedures. They inspect wineries, breweries, and distilleries; cigar and cigarette factories; explosives and firearms dealers, manufacturers, and users; and wholesale liquor dealers and importers. These inspectors work for the Justice Department of the federal government, and their main concern is that all revenue on these various commodities is collected.

Logging-operations inspectors see that contract provisions and fire and safety laws are adhered to and that no loss of timber is caused by damage to trees left standing.

Government property inspectors prevent the waste, damage, or theft of government-owned equipment and materials handled by private contractors.

Quality control inspectors and coordinators, sometimes called quality assurance inspectors, check products produced for the government by private companies to see that they meet order specifications and legal requirements. They may specialize in such products as pharmaceuticals, lumber, furniture, electronics, machinery, or petroleum products.

Bank examiners investigate banking practices throughout a state to ensure that banks comply with laws established by the government to protect against mismanagement and bank failure. They schedule audits and recommend acceptance or rejection for new institutions, mergers, acquisitions, or membership in the Federal Reserve System. They also formulate plans or actions to protect the solvency of a financial institution, acting in the best interests of shareholders and depositors.

Revenue officers investigate and collect delinquent taxes from private citizens and businesses. They work with taxpayers to resolve tax problems, assess penalties, and implement collection plans and criminal prosecution when applicable.

Securities compliance examiners check compliance with government regulations concerning securities and real estate transactions.

Postal inspectors enforce laws and regulations that aid in the normal functioning of the U.S. Postal Service. They investigate mail fraud and theft and perform audits in the instance of suspected mismanagement. They may also work as members of task forces with other government agencies such as the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives and the Internal Revenue Service. They carry firearms and are authorized to make arrests.

License inspectors make sure that valid licenses and permits are displayed by establishments to which they were granted and that licensing standards are maintained. These workers may inspect one class of business such as rooming houses or taverns.

Other regulatory inspectors include weights and measures inspectors, internal revenue investigators, welfare investigators, and claims investigators.

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