A factory inspector is a professional who examines elements of a factory or plant's operations to ensure safety, quality, and compliance with regulations. Factory inspectors can be employed by many different organizations, and can have varying areas of expertise. The main job of any factory inspector is to help improve the safety of a factory and its products for both workers and consumers.
Factory inspectors became common in the late 19th century, when many governments enacted the first laws regulating procedures within factories. Some of the first government-employed inspectors attempted to root out the use of child labor; in the United Kingdom, the 1833 Factory Act became one of the first to mandate the creation of inspector positions to ensure that children under the age of nine were not used for factory labor. As government regulation of manufacturing expanded, the number of inspectors increased vastly throughout the world. A modern factory may now undergo government inspection for health compliance, safety preparedness, labor law adherence, environmental standards, and quality assurance.
Though a great many factory inspectors are employed by the government, many also work for insurance agencies and labor unions. A factory inspector can be a great boon to either of these organizations, as he or she can perform regular inspections to ensure that a manufacturing plant adheres to insurance or union standards. Violations to insurance standards can result in increased rates or even a loss of coverage. Union violations can lead to union worker strikes, fines, or other punitive actions by labor unions.
A factory inspector may also be employed by a manufacturing business. In order to avoid fines, sanctions, and strikes caused by various regulatory violations, factory management may find internal inspectors extremely useful. A dedicated inspector, trained in all the regulations a factory may face, can ensure that the company is compliant with standards before they undergo an external inspection. Internal inspectors may also examine issues such as production efficiency and uniform quality assurance, making sure that the products created at a plant are managed effectively and in line with internal quality standards.
The training necessary to become a factory inspector may vary by position. While there are few training courses leading directly to the field, some factory inspectors have training as engineers, mechanics, or quality assurance professionals. Much of the training for a factory inspector is done on the job, though an inspector may also spend considerable time studying and understanding regulatory rules in their industry.