To become a factory inspector, you will need to get a bachelor’s degree in occupational safety or a closely related peripheral field such as safety engineering. This means that you will study subjects such as air quality control, risk management, fire protection, chemical toxicology and the regulatory aspects of workplace safety. If you become a factory inspector, your employer will be either a very large manufacturing firm or, more likely, a regional or national governmental agency that monitors, regulates and enforces workplace safety.
Another type of factory inspector works solely for a company, insuring that manufacturing processes are cost-effective, efficient and producing commercially viable products. This type of factory inspector is charged with making sure that the product also adheres to a certain set of standards. Following this career path to become a factory inspector also requires an engineering background, as well as some exposure to actuarial science, which determines probability and risk based on statistical analyses.
On some occasions, one position might combine both jobs. In other cases, the paths of the two types of factory inspectors, safety and quality control, might overlap, because process improvement and quality control also depend on worker safety. For the most part, however, factory inspectors will focus solely on the human health and safety element of production.
Factory inspectors should be trained and equipped to evaluate and monitor everything from a facility’s heating, ventilating and air-conditioning (HVAC) system, to the appropriate standards for an assembly line. The first, which can develop mold, can become an ongoing source of “sick building syndrome,” causing large numbers of employees to exhibit what appear to be infectious illness symptoms. The latter, which might be poorly lit, badly protected or operating at a speed not conducive to proper handling and inspection, can result not only in eyestrain, headaches and possibly injury but in poor quality control as well.
The role of factory inspector emerged as a result of companies and their managers failing to consider the health and safety of their employees. This resulted in abuses such as child labor, extremely long work days even for pregnant women and disasters that injured or killed hundreds because simple rules such as adequate ventilation, fire suppression and safety monitoring were never addressed. Today’s factory inspector is likely to make a routine call on a production facility as part of his or her regular duties. These inspections merely assure that the company is following recommended health and safety measures. Occasionally, if you become a factory inspector, you will be required to call on a facility because of a workplace accident or health problem that has come to the attention of the government.