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Can a Felon Become an OSHA Inspector?

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Often, felons must look at different career path after leaving prison, including returning to school for additional education. While serving their sentence some felons might consider a career in safety and the construction industry and could explore a career as an OSHA inspector.

This blog post will address the issue of whether or not a felon can become an OSHA inspector.

  • What is an OSHA Inspector?
  • What Education/Training Does an OSHA Inspector Need?
  • How Much Does an OSHA Inspector Earn?
  • An Opportunity for Felons?
  • Recommended Action


What is an OSHA Inspector?

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is a government organization designed to reduce workplace injuries and hazards. This agency carries out inspections on work sites to ensure employers and employees follow workplace safety regulations.

An OSHA inspector protects workers through identification of unsafe working conditions and business practices. He or she deals with a wide range of issues from biochemical hazards to the safety of office workers.

There are three inspector career tracks in OSHA:

  • Industrial hygienist
  • Safety engineer
  • Safety and occupational health specialist

Each type of inspector visits private and public facilities to inspect compliance with federal health and safety laws.

An industrial hygienist provides advice regarding environmental issues such as noise, while hazards, and dangerous chemicals.

A safety engineer reviews proposed designs, methods, and procedures. He or she also provides advice regarding technical compliance with health and safety laws.

A safety and occupational health specialist focuses on employee comfort, including ventilation, lighting, and equipment along with safety and emergency preparation training.

The many things an occupational health and safety specialist does include:

  • Inspecting, testing, and evaluating workplace environments
  • Preparing written reports
  • Designing and implementing safety processes and procedures
  • Evaluating programs on workplace health and safety
  • Educating employers and employees about workplace safety
  • Demonstrating the correct use of safety equipment
  • Investigating incidents and accidents

Health and safety inspectors are employed in a number of areas, including:

  • Manufacturing
  • Schools
  • Mines
  • Hospitals construction
  • Safety consultation

Among the many skills necessary to be successful as an OSHA inspector are:

  • Knowledge of technology
  • Communications
  • Detail-oriented
  • Physical stamina
  • Problem-solving skills

What Education/Training Does an OSHA Inspector Need?

To qualify as an OSHA inspector, someone will need a bachelor’s degree in a field related to health and safety standards, such as:

  • Biology
  • Engineering
  • Chemistry
  • Occupational health

Course work typically includes classes in:

  • Hazardous materials handling
  • Respiratory protection
  • Risk communications

Certification is not required to become an OSHA inspector, but it makes a significant difference in being able to get a job in this area as many states are in the process of enacting such requirements. Most certification programs require a relevant college degree and some work experience.

Job safety and health programs require inspections to ensure employer compliance with safety regulations. Inspections help identify circumstances that present a risk and danger to employees. To become an OSHA inspector, formal education requirements and specialized training are necessary.

In addition to the required education, an OSHA specialist can first work as an OSHA technician. To become a safety technician requires at least an associate’s degree from a community college or vocational school. Certification can be obtained from the Board Certified Safety Professionals (BCSP).

While certification is voluntary, many employers look for employees who have this certification as it offers a higher standard for the company.

The BCSP offers certification as a:

  • Certified safety professional
  • Associate safety professional
  • Occupational health and safety technologist
  • Construction health and safety technician

The American Board of Industrial Hygiene offers a certification known as a Certified Industrial Hygienist (CIH).

How Much Does an OSHA Inspector Earn?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were approximately 132,400 individuals employed as occupational health and safety specialists in 2016. The median annual income for an occupational health and safety specialist was $74,870 in 2021.

Salary varies based on years of experience, area of country, and certifications. Typically, those with more experience who are also certified will earn more than those who are not certified.

Employment of occupational health and safety specialists is expected to increase by approximately 8% between 2016 and 2026. Specialists and technicians will be required to work in various industries and government agencies to deal with existing and new safety regulations.

An Opportunity for Felons?

A felon can pursue any degree he or she wants. Approximately 60% of colleges consider criminal history in their admissions process, although there is no standard policy regarding a background check.

Any felon that wants to get a degree in preparation for becoming an OSHA inspector can find a college that will accept him or her. A felon may have difficulty getting accepted into many schools, but there are programs that will accept a felon.

Another thing to consider is whether or not a felon will be able to become certified after completing a college degree.

The following factors will be considered in determining whether a criminal conviction should be grounds to deny certification:

  • Nature and seriousness of the crime
  • Relationship of the crime to the purposes for requiring certification
  • Extent to which certification might offer an opportunity to engage in further criminal activity
  • Relationship of a crime to the ability, capacity, or fitness to perform the duties

Further information will be considered regarding the applicant’s fitness to perform the duties of an OSHA inspector:

  • Extent and nature of the applicant’s past criminal activity
  • Age of the person when the crime was committed
  • Amount of time that has elapsed since the last criminal activity
  • Work activity of the applicant before and after the criminal conviction
  • Evidence of the person’s rehabilitation while incarcerated or after release
  • Other evidence of the person’s fitness, including letters of recommendation from prosecutors, law enforcement, correctional officers, and any other person with knowledge of the applicant

It’s important to be honest while filling out an application when applying for school or certification. If a felony isn’t disclosed but is found on a background check, this constitutes fraud and is punishable. It’s a crime to falsify an application, which could result in being sent back to prison.

Having their felony expunged can give them the chance needed to begin with a clean record and succeed in becoming an OSHA inspector. Expunging a criminal record allows anyone to honestly state on an application that he or she has not been convicted of a crime.

Recommended Action

It’s a big challenge, but it might be worth it for a felon wanting to become an OSHA inspector. Having his or her record expunged and also documenting any training programs or additional education could make the essential difference in a felon succeeding in becoming an OSHA inspector.

Having support from family, friends, or previous employers can make a huge difference. A felon doesn’t have to be defined by his or her crime. We are not defined by our mistakes but by how we recover from them. He or she can begin again and live an honest life no matter how difficult it might seem.

What do you think about this blog post? Have you or someone you know been in the situation of trying to become an OSHA inspector with a felony? What was that like for him or her, and how did he or she achieve success? Please tell us in the comments below.

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