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Health inspections are periodic evaluations of public facilities or manufacturing environments to ensure the general environment meets the basic safety requirements set in place by local and national laws. While many people think of a health inspection as having to do with a restaurant or other establishment where food or drink is served, there are also inspections designed for use in factories, offices, and any other location where people gather.
At the heart of any health inspection is the desire to maintain an equitable level of health safety for anyone who frequents the location. For example, manufacturing facilities regularly undergo an environmental health inspection to make sure that none of the raw materials used in the creation of goods do not pose a health threat for employees. Any chemicals used in the manufacturing process are also subject to inspection.
In order to ensure that inspections done in business settings are thorough and comply with current regulations, an inspector who is also a certified environmental health specialist often conducts the process. Inspectors with this level of expertise know what to look for in the way of health hazards that may not be readily perceived by others as well as any obvious health risks. The comprehensive nature of the inspection can help to contain a developing health risk before it has the chance to grow into something that is much more serious.
When conducting a restaurant health inspection, the health inspector will look closely at conditions in every area of the facility. Dining areas are evaluated for the cleanliness of table tops and any other furnishings in the space. Decorative elements such as chair rails or wainscoting are also inspected for dust or grease. Floors must also be clean, covered with some sort of non-skid floor covering, and in good condition. If a buffet or cafeteria line is present, the inspector will check the temperature of the individual compartments on the bar as well as make sure sneeze guards are up to current codes.
Inspectors will also look closely at the food preparation areas. Counters must be clean and constructed of approved materials. Sinks must also meet local standards, and the water temperature must reach a minimum specified temperature. Meats and fresh vegetables must be refrigerated at proper temperatures, and cleaning agents cannot be placed in close proximity to any foods, even canned products.
Other areas of the restaurant that are open to the public will also undergo a health inspection. Restrooms must be clean, vented properly, and feature toilets and other equipment that complies with current standards. If the facility has a central heating and cooling system, the vents are inspected to make sure they are clean and in good working order.
While health and safety standards vary from one jurisdiction to another, just about any community will conduct regular health and safety inspections of any businesses where people gather. Many countries employ a rating system as part of the health inspection, taking off points for any infractions that are found. In nations such as Canada, the United Kingdom, and the United States, health inspectors have the authority to close a public facility if the infractions are deemed to be a serious safety hazard for the general public.