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Inspectors and compliance officers enforce a wide range of laws, regulations, policies, or procedures, and advise on standards that protect the public. They inspect and enforce rules on matters such as health, safety, food, immigration, licensing, interstate commerce, or international trade. Inspectors' duties vary widely, depending upon their employer.
Agricultural chemicals inspectors protect American agriculture by inspecting establishments where agricultural service products, such as livestock feed and remedies, fertilizers, and pesticides are manufactured, sold, or used. They may visit processing plants, distribution warehouses, sales outlets, agricultural service organizations, and farmers to collect product samples for analysis. They call on dealers to determine that licensing requirements have been met. They then prepare reports for supervisors and for use as evidence in legal actions.
Agricultural commodity graders apply quality standards to aid the buying and selling of commodities and to insure that retailers and consumers know the quality of the products they purchase. Although this grading is not required by law, buyers generally will not purchase ungraded commodities. Graders usually specialize in an area such as eggs and egg products, meat, poultry, processed or fresh fruits and vegetables, grain, tobacco, cotton, or dairy products. They examine product samples to determine quality and grade, and issue official grading certificates. Graders also may inspect the plant and equipment to maintain sanitation standards.
Attendance officers investigate continued absences of pupils from public schools.
Aviation safety inspectors ensure that Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) regulations which govern the quality and safety of aircraft equipment, aircraft operations, and personnel are maintained. Aviation safety inspectors may inspect aircraft and equipment manufacturing, maintenance and repair, or flight procedures. They may work in the areas of flight operations, maintenance, or avionics, and usually specialize in either commercial or general aviation aircraft. They also examine and certify aircraft pilots, pilot examiners, flight instructors, repair stations, schools, and instructional materials.
Bank examiners investigate financial institutions to enforce Federal and State laws and regulations governing the institution's operations and solvency. Examiners schedule audits, determine actions to protect the institution's solvency and the interests of shareholders and depositors, and recommend acceptance or rejection of applications for mergers, acquisitions, establishment of a new institution, or acceptance in the Federal Reserve System.
Consumer safety inspectors inspect food, feeds and pesticides, weights and measures, biological products, cosmetics, drugs and medical equipment, as well as radiation emitting products. Some are proficient in several areas. Working individually or in teams under a senior inspector, they check on firms that produce, handle, store, or market the products they regulate. They ensure that standards are maintained and respond to consumer complaints by questioning employees, vendors, and others to obtain evidence. Inspectors look for inaccurate product labeling, and for decomposition or chemical or bacteriological contamination that could result in a product becoming harmful to health. They may use portable scales, cameras, ultraviolet lights, thermometers, chemical testing kits, radiation monitors, or other equipment to find violations. They may send product samples collected as part of their examinations to laboratories for analysis.
After completing their inspection, inspectors discuss their observations with plant managers or officials and point out areas where corrective measures are needed. They write reports of their findings and, when necessary, compile evidence that may be used in court if legal action must be taken.
Customs inspectors enforce laws governing imports and exports. Stationed in the United States and overseas at airports, seaports, and border crossing points, they examine, count, weigh, gauge, measure, and sample commercial and noncommercial cargoes entering and leaving the United States to determine admissibility and the amount of duties that must be paid. They insure that all cargo is properly described on accompanying importers' declarations to determine the proper duty and interdict contraband. They inspect baggage and articles carried by passengers and crew members to insure that all merchandise is declared, proper duties are paid, and contraband is not present. They also ensure that people, ships, planes, and anything used to import or export cargo comply with all appropriate entrance and clearance requirements.
Dealer compliance representatives inspect franchised establishments to ascertain compliance with the franchiser's policies and procedures. They may suggest changes in financial and other operations.
Environmental health inspectors, or sanitarians, who work primarily for State and local governments, ensure that food, water, and air meet government standards. They check the cleanliness and safety of food and beverages produced in dairies and processing plants, or served in restaurants, hospitals, and other institutions. They often examine the handling, processing, and serving of food for compliance with sanitation rules and regulations and oversee the treatment and disposal of sewage, refuse, and garbage. In addition, inspectors may visit pollution sources and test for pollutants by collecting air, water, or waste samples for analysis. They try to determine the nature and cause of pollution and initiate action to stop it.
In large local and State health or agriculture departments, environmental health inspectors may specialize in milk and dairy products, food sanitation, waste control, air pollution, water pollution, institutional sanitation, or occupational health. In rural areas and small cities, they may be responsible for a wide range of environmental health activities.
Equal opportunity representatives ascertain and correct unfair employment practices through consultation with and mediation between employers and minority groups.
Federal and State laws require food inspectors to inspect meat, poultry, and their byproducts to ensure that they are safe for public consumption. Working onsite, frequently as part of a team, they inspect meat and poultry slaughtering, processing, and packaging operations. They also check for correct product labeling and proper sanitation.
Immigration inspectors interview and examine people seeking to enter the United States and its territories. They inspect passports to determine whether people are legally eligible to enter and to verify their citizenship status and identity. Immigration inspectors also prepare reports, maintain records, and process applications and petitions for immigration or temporary residence in the United States.
Logging operations inspectors review contract logging operations. They prepare reports and issue remedial instructions for violations of contractual agreements and of fire and safety regulations.
Mine safety and health inspectors work to ensure the health and safety of miners. They visit mines and related facilities to obtain information on health and safety conditions and to enforce safety laws and regulations. They discuss their findings with the management of the mine and issue citations describing violations and hazards that must be corrected. Mine inspectors also investigate and report on mine accidents and may direct rescue and firefighting operations when fires or explosions occur.
Motor vehicle inspectors verify the compliance of automobiles and trucks with State requirements for safe operation and emissions. They inspect truck cargoes to assure compliance with legal limitations on gross weight and hazardous cargoes.
Occupational safety and health inspectors visit places of employment to detect unsafe machinery and equipment or unhealthy working conditions. They discuss their findings with the employer or plant manager and order that violations be promptly corrected in accordance with Federal, State, or local government safety standards and regulations. They interview supervisors and employees in response to complaints or accidents, and may order suspension of activity posing threats to workers.
Park rangers enforce laws and regulations in State and national parks. Their duties range from registering vehicles and visitors, collecting fees, and providing information regarding park use and points of interest, to patrolling areas to prevent fire, participating in first aid and rescue activities, and training and supervising other park workers. Some rangers specialize in snow safety and avalanche control. With increasing numbers of visitors to our national parks, some rangers specialize as law enforcement officers.
Postal inspectors observe the functioning of the postal system and enforce laws and regulations. As law enforcement agents, postal inspectors have statutory powers of arrest and the authority to carry firearms. They investigate criminal activities such as theft and misuse of the mail. In instances of suspected mismanagement or fraud, inspectors conduct management or financial audits. They also collaborate with other government agencies, such as the Internal Revenue Service, as members of special task forces.
Quality control inspectors and coordinators inspect products manufactured or processed by private companies for government use to ensure compliance with contract specifications. They may specialize in specific products such as lumber, machinery, petroleum products, paper products, electronic equipment, or furniture. Others coordinate the activities of workers engaged in testing and evaluating pharmaceuticals in order to control quality of manufacture and ensure compliance with legal standards.
Railroad inspectors verify the compliance of railroad systems and equipment with Federal safety regulations. They investigate accidents and review railroads' operating practices.
Revenue officers investigate and collect delinquent tax returns from individuals or businesses. They investigate leads from various sources. They attempt to resolve tax problems with taxpayers and recommend penalties, collection actions, and recommend criminal prosecutions when necessary.
Securities compliance examiners implement regulations concerning securities and real estate transactions. They investigate applications for registration of securities sales and complaints of irregular securities transactions, and recommend necessary legal action.
Travel accommodations raters inspect hotels, motels, restaurants, campgrounds, and vacation resorts. They evaluate travel and tourist accommodations for travel guide publishers and organizations such as tourism promoters and automobile clubs.
Other inspectors and compliance officers include coroners, customs import specialists, code inspectors, mortician investigators, and dealer-compliance representatives. Closely related work is done by construction and building inspectors. (Construction and building inspectors are discussed elsewhere in the Handbook.)
Inspectors and compliance officers meet all kinds of people and work in a variety of environments. Their jobs often involve considerable field work, and some inspectors travel frequently. They are generally furnished with an automobile or are reimbursed for travel expenses.
Inspectors may experience unpleasant, stressful, and dangerous working conditions. For example, mine safety and health inspectors often are exposed to the same hazards as miners. Some food inspectors examine and inspect the livestock slaughtering process in slaughterhouses and frequently come in contact with unpleasant conditions. Customs inspectors have to put up with an irritated public when they search individuals, luggage, and cargo, in addition to the danger inherent to making an occasional arrest. Park rangers often work outdoors-in many cases, on rugged terrain-in very hot or bitterly cold weather for extended periods.
Many inspectors work long and often irregular hours. Even those inspectors not engaged in some form of law enforcement may find themselves in adversarial roles when the organization or individual being inspected objects
Inspectors and compliance officers held about 157,000 jobs in 1994. State governments employed 34 percent, the Federal Governmentchiefly the Departments of Defense, Labor, Treasury, Agriculture, and Justiceemployed 29 percent, and local governments employed 18 percent. The remaining 19 percent were employed in the U.S. Postal Service and throughout the private sectorprimarily in education, hospitals, insurance companies, labor unions, and manufacturing firms.
Most consumer safety inspectors on the Federal level work for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, but the majority of these inspectors work for State governments. Most food inspectors and agricultural commodity graders are employed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Many health inspectors work for State and local governments. Compliance inspectors are employed primarily by the Treasury, Justice, and Labor departments on the Federal level, as well as by State and local governments. The Department of Defense employs the most quality assurance inspectors. The Treasury Department employs internal revenue officers and customs inspectors. Aviation safety inspectors work for the Federal Aviation Administration. The Environmental Protection Agency employs inspectors to verify compliance with pollution control and other laws. The U.S. Department of Labor and many State governments employ occupational safety and health inspectors, equal-opportunity officers, and mine safety and health inspectors. Immigration inspectors are employed by the U.S. Department of Justice, while the U.S. Department of Interior employs park rangers. Immigration and customs inspectors work in the United States and overseas at airports, seaports, and border crossing points.
Because of the diversity of the functions they perform, qualifications for inspector and compliance officer jobs differ greatly. Requirements include a combination of education, experience, and often a passing grade on a written examination. Employers may require college training, including courses related to the job. The following examples illustrate the range of qualifications for various inspector jobs.
Postal inspectors must have a bachelor's degree and 1 year's work experience. It is desirable that they have one of several professional certifications, such as that of certified public accountant. They also must pass a background suitability investigation, and meet certain health requirements, undergo a drug screening test, possess a valid State driver's license, and be a U.S. citizen between 21 and 36 years of age when hired.
Aviation safety inspectors working in operations must be pilots with varying certificates, ratings, and numbers of flight hours to their credit. Maintenance and avionics inspectors must have considerable experience in aviation maintenance and knowledge of industry standards and relevant Federal laws. In addition, FAA medical certificates are required. Some also are required to have an FAA flight instructor rating. Many aviation safety inspectors have had flight and maintenance training in the Armed Forces. No written examination is required.
Applicants for positions as mine safety and health inspectors generally must have experience in mine safety, management, or supervision. Some may possess a skill such as that of an electrician (for mine electrical inspectors). Applicants must meet strict medical requirements and be physically able to perform arduous duties efficiently. Many mine safety inspectors are former miners.
Applicants for internal revenue officer jobs must be a U.S. citizen and have a bachelor's degree or 3 years of experience in business, legal, or financial, or investigative practices.
Park rangers need at least 2 years of college with at least 12 credits in science and criminal justice, although some start as part-time, seasonal workers with the U.S. Forest Service. Most positions require a bachelor's degree.
Environmental health inspectors, called sanitarians in many States, sometimes must have a bachelor's degree in environmental health or in the physical or biological sciences. In most States, they are licensed by examining boards.
All inspectors and compliance officers are trained in the applicable laws or inspection procedures through some combination of classroom and on-the-job training. In general, people who want to enter this occupation should be able to accept responsibility and like detailed work. Inspectors and compliance officers should be neat and personable and able to express themselves well orally and in writing.
Federal Government inspectors and compliance officers whose job performance is satisfactory advance through their career ladder to a specified full performance level. For positions above this level (usually supervisory positions), advancement is competitive, based on agency needs and individual merit. Advancement opportunities in State and local governments and the private sector are often similar to those in the Federal Government.
Some civil service specifications, including those for mine inspectors, aviation safety inspectors, and agricultural commodity graders, rate applicants solely on their experience and education. Others require a written examination.
Employment of inspectors and compliance officers is expected to grow about as fast as the average for all occupations through the year 2005, reflecting a balance of growing public demand for a safe environment and quality products against the desire for smaller government and fewer regulations. Modest employment growth, particularly in local government, should stem from the expansion of regulatory and compliance programs in solid and hazardous waste disposal and water pollution. In private industry, employment growth will reflect industry growth, due to continuing self-enforcement of government and company regulations and policies, particularly among franchise operations in various industries. Job openings will also arise from the need to replace those who transfer to other occupations, retire, or leave the labor force for other reasons.
Employment of inspectors and compliance officers is seldom affected by general economic fluctuations. Federal, State, and local governmentswhich employ most inspectorsprovide workers with considerable job security. As a result, inspectors are less likely to lose their jobs than many other workers.
The median weekly salary of inspectors and compliance officers, except construction, was about $667 in 1994. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $388; the highest 10 percent earned over $1,130. In the Federal Government, the annual starting salaries for inspectors varied substantially in 1995from $18,700 to $41,100depending upon the nature of the inspection or compliance activity. Beginning salaries were slightly higher in selected areas where the prevailing local pay level was higher. The following tabulation presents 1994 average salaries for selected inspectors and compliance officers in the Federal Government in nonsupervisory, supervisory, and managerial positions.Aviation safety inspectors $62,330 Highway safety inspectors 57,640 Railroad safety inspectors 51,540 Mine safety and health inspectors 50,720 Internal revenue agent 50,140 Equal opportunity compliance official 49,260 Environmental protection specialists 47,580 Import specialists 46,420 Safety and occupational health managers 45,450 Alcohol, tobacco, and firearms inspectors 44,370 Quality assurance inspectors 42,770 Customs inspectors 37,760 Securities compliance examiners 35,460 Agricultural commodity graders 35,320 Immigration inspectors 34,410 Food inspectors 30,620 Consumer safety inspectors 29,380 Environmental protection assistants 25,390Most inspectors and compliance officers work for Federal, State, and local governments and in large private firms, all of which generally offer more generous benefits than do smaller firms.
Inspectors and compliance officers are responsible for seeing that laws and regulations are obeyed. Construction and building inspectors, fire marshals, Federal, State, and local law enforcement professionals, corrections officers, and fish and game wardens also enforce laws and regulations.
Information on Federal Government jobs is available from offices of the State employment service, area offices of the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, and Federal Job Information Centers in large cities throughout the country. For information on a career as a specific type of Federal inspector or compliance officer, a Federal department or agency that employs them may also be contacted directly.
Information about State and local government jobs is available from State civil service commissions, usually located in each State capital, or from local government offices.
Information about jobs in private industry is available from the State Employment Service, which is listed under "Job Service'' or "Employment'' in the State government section of local telephone directories.
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