Health Inspector Career Profile

Health inspectors are public sector employees working for local or state agencies, depending on jurisdiction. Health inspectors spend most of their time in the field. They inspect public businesses, like food shops, retailers, industrial premises, residential accommodations and other licensed businesses for compliance with health regulations.

The Work Environment

The health inspector's work is mainly concerned with hygiene and health hazards, and some of the places inspected can be in terrible condition. The health inspector's basic issues are: 

  • Health and hygiene hazards: This may include food, waste management, contaminants, hazardous materials and chemicals and their handling and disposal.
  • Sanitary issues: Sewers, gutters, plumbing and related issues.

Hygiene and sanitation requirements are prescribed by law. A breach of these health requirements means the business owner is breaking the law. Businesses can lose their licenses and be unable to trade under these circumstances. Some offenses can also attract fines. Charges can be laid for offenses, and owners are required to rectify the problems. If the owner fails to comply with orders by the issuing authority or the court, the owner may face additional charges for the failure.

Health inspectors are empowered by local or state law to carry out these inspections. This very important work, conducted in the public interest. Contaminated food and business premises are a very real risk to public health. Unsanitary food handling practices, food storage and cookery can promote the spread of serious diseases. Waste from businesses can also encourage vermin infestations, adding another possible source of disease.  

What Field Work Involves

  • Physical inspection of premises: Health inspectors may inspect premises on the basis of regular checks or complaints from the public. Includes checking for compliance with relevant health and building codes and statutes.
  • Documenting the state of the premises: This is a systematic check of facilities and the condition of premises and amenities.
  • Interviewing owners of premises as required: This is a legal process. All inspections have legal authority, and a business or premises owner may make statements regarding the circumstances of situations related to the inspection. (In some cases, businesses and owners of premises may have grounds for complaint regarding provision of goods or services. They contact the health department for assistance in these cases.)
  • Writing a report if required regarding breaches of law: If a place of business or residence is unsanitary, the health inspector has to file an official report detailing the condition of the premises, the causes of the situation, and recommendations for rectification.

Wages and Hours

A health inspector can expect to earn anywhere from $33,000 to $56,000 annually. The median range will depend on their qualifications and experience. The hours that an inspector works can be lengthy due to travel and access issues. Also, there may be late hours and long days.

The Career Outlook

Health inspectors are usually highly qualified specialists, with professional qualifications which allow a lot of career options. Additional qualifications expand the career range and may include specializations. At senior levels, health inspectors may progress to become managers of local or state health regulators.