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Essential skills profile

This profile contains a list of example tasks that illustrate how each of the 9 essential skills is generally performed by most workers in this occupation. The levels of complexity estimated for each task are ranked between 1 (basic) and 5 (advanced).

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Agricultural and Fish Products Inspectors(2222)

Agricultural and fish products inspectors inspect agricultural and fish products for conformity to prescribed production, storage and transportation standards. They are employed by government departments and agencies and by private sector food processing companies. Supervisors of agricultural and fish products inspectors are also included in this group.

Reading Help - Reading
  • Read correspondence from supervisors, co-workers, colleagues and members of the public. For example, they may read e-mail from supervisors directing the closing of specified processing plants, colleagues providing second opinions on the identification of insects found in products and consumers complaining of illness from tainted products. (2)
  • Read instructions, explanations and comments on entry forms. For example, they read inspection criteria on checklists, recommendations on pathology and soil analysis reports, and observations concerning clients' compliance on inspection reports. (2)
  • Read memos and notices about changes in standards, policies and procedures. For example, they may read memos detailing changes in procedures for the inspection of packaged mushrooms and cooked chicken, and notices of new standards for products to be exported to Europe. (3)
  • May read detailed descriptions of production procedures submitted by clients. For example, fish, meat and dairy inspectors may read Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points system plans and quality management program plans prepared by processing plants to determine if the plans conform to regulations. Organic inspectors read descriptions of farm and food processing operations in applications for organic certification. (3)
  • Read agricultural and food processing trade publications to learn about new products and methods for packaging, shipping and storage of products. For example, a meat inspector reads an article on gas packaging of meat to understand the process and design appropriate inspection procedures. (3)
  • May read technical bulletins and textbooks. For example, meat inspectors study government bulletins on bovine spongiform encephalopathy to be able to explain the disease to beef processors and apply appropriate detection procedures. Multi-commodity inspectors may study biological textbooks to learn about the stages of plant growth and concurrent blights and infestations. (4)
  • Read a variety of government legislation and certification standards. For example, they may read the Meat Inspection Act, Dairy Industry Act, Fish Inspection Act, Food and Drug Act, Consumer Packaging and Labelling Act, and certification standards issued by agencies such as the Canadian Grain Commission, Quality Assurance International and Euregap. They may compare information in domestic and international regulations and standards to assess the acceptability of products for import and export. (4)
Document use Help - Document use
  • Observe directional and hazard signs at facilities such as food terminals, ship docks, abattoirs, fish plants, orchards and dairy farms. (1)
  • Scan product labels for information such as ingredients, weights and nutritional data. (1)
  • Locate data in lists and complex tables. For example, when grading products, a fruit and vegetable inspector refers to a table of product characteristics including size, ripeness and defects such as bruising, mildew and injury from insects. A milk inspector reviews a table of lab analysis results on samples from each of several hundred cows to determine the source of a high bacteria count in milk from the herd. (2)
  • Complete a variety of reports, production records and certification forms. For example, they complete inspection checklists and audit reports. They complete invoices for inspection services and enter data for samples in lab submission forms. In the course of processing food product shipments, they may issue notices of quarantine, detention, and release from detention and phytosanitary and export certificates. (2)
  • Locate data in a variety of entry forms. For example, they may review clients' production schedules, bills of lading, sales reports, cleaning and pesticide spraying records, and process recipes to locate specific data needed for inspections. (2)
  • May interpret graphs describing various aspects of food production and plant protection processes. For example, they examine graphs to check the durations and temperatures of processes such as milk pasteurization, fish canning and plant fumigation. (3)
  • May locate data in maps and floor plans. For example, they may use maps of farms and floor plans of processing facilities to determine the locations and sizes of crop sections, pesticide buffer zones, animal pens and food storage areas. (3)
  • May identify processing stages, pieces of equipment and process flows in schematics of processing operations. For example, inspectors of processed foods may interpret schematics which illustrate the equipment and procedures for receiving, cleaning, cooking, packing, storing and shipping all ingredients and final products. (4)
Writing Help - Writing
  • Write questions to ask clients during inspections and audits. They draft questions that will elicit information not found in documents such as applications and previous inspection reports. (2)
  • Enter brief comments on inspection forms. For example, they write comments about the condition of products and the conformity of facilities to standards. They write orders for actions such as the fumigation of products and return of shipments to countries of origin. (2)
  • Write notes in which they summarize inspection activities and discussions with clients. They may write extensive notes to record the progress of complex inspections. They refer to these summary notes when they prepare final reports. (2)
  • Write e-mail to co-workers and colleagues. For example, they may write e-mail to other inspectors to request their help in identifying pests and diseases, and to provide details about the judgments they have made. (2)
  • May correspond with members of the public. For example, they may write to consumers who file complaints about unsafe food products to explain investigations that have been undertaken and conclusions drawn. (2)
  • May write letters and short reports on a variety of matters. For example, a fruit and vegetable inspector writes a letter to a European certification agency offering criticism of proposed changes to the fee structure of inspections and audits. A meat inspector writes a report to agency managers describing trends in non-compliance that warrant general corrective action. (3)
  • Write longer inspection reports that describe inspection and audit activities carried out, areas of non-compliance identified, corrective actions recommended and justification of decisions made. To prepare these reports they may refer to extensive personal notes, analyze information in documents provided by clients and synthesize information written by other inspectors. They submit the reports to their superiors, certification agency review boards and clients. (4)
Numeracy Help - Numeracy Money Math
  • May handle cash. For example, they pay for transportation, meals and accommodation when performing inspections. They may collect licensing inspection fees from clients. (1)
  • Calculate invoice amounts of inspection services. They charge for inspections using flat fees and hourly rates, calculate travel expenses using per kilometre rates, applicable taxes and total amounts. (3)
Scheduling, Budgeting & Accounting Math
  • plan personal work schedules to carry out assigned inspections. They may schedule inspections in several cities on one trip, planning travel and appointments according to the availability of clients and the times when various production stages are in progress. (2)
  • May develop and manage operational and project budgets. For example, they may develop budgets for special inspection programs needed to counter specific health threats such as outbreaks of paralytic shellfish poisoning and sudden oak death. Self-employed inspectors may do their own business planning and allocate money to capital costs, operating expenses and office supplies. (3)
  • May plan staff and inspection schedules for the ongoing inspection of facilities and management of crises. For example, inspectors who are supervisors and team leaders schedule workers' shifts to achieve regulated inspection frequencies and durations at sites such as some meat and dairy plants, and to conduct inspections of plants that have been found to be nonconforming. They also calculate staff requirements to carry out emergency tasks such as overseeing the quarantine and fumigation of large quantities of product. (3)
Measurement and Calculation Math
  • Measure a variety of product and facility characteristics. For example, they use tapes to measure the sizes of rooms and animal organs, scales to weigh the contents of packaged foods and thermometers to measure temperatures in various parts of storage facilities. (1)
  • Calculate gross, tare and net weights and percentages of contents by weight. For example, they may calculate the weight of commodities in trucks by subtracting the weights of empty trucks from the weights of the trucks when loaded. They may calculate the percentage of water in chickens by weighing them before and after air chilling, and the percentage of glaze on shrimps by weighing them before and after rinsing. (2)
  • Describe key features of products, shipments, production facilities and equipment mathematically. For example, they may calculate total weights of food shipments, numbers of boxes per skid and volumes of containers. They may calculate the areas of animal pens and total distances of production lines. (3)
  • Take precise measurements using specialized instruments. For example, dairy inspectors use test kits to measure acidity levels in milk. Fruit inspectors use area aggregate gauges to calculate the extent of damage to fruit. (3)
Data Analysis Math
  • Compare measurements and lab test results with data on labels and in regulations to identify nonconformity. For example, a poultry inspector checks for consistency between the actual weight and nutritional content of foods and data on package labels. A fish inspector checks the sizes of equipment parts against specifications in regulated quality management plans. A dairy inspector checks measurements of processing critical control points for conformity with specifications in Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point plans. (1)
  • Verify data in clients' production documents. For example, an organic inspector verifies data in a food processor's receipts, bills of lading, processing recipes and production and sales reports to determine if they substantiate the organic integrity of products. (2)
  • Determine the sample size required to assess the quality of commodities and processes. For example, they may determine the minimum number of farms in a group to audit by applying specified formulae. They may adjust the sampling size by considering factors such as the number of workers and variation in work practices on the farms. They may compare periodic bacteria counts and chemical residue levels to check for improvement and to detect trends in nonconformity. (3)
  • May collect and analyze production data to describe inspection and food processing activities. For example, meat inspectors may calculate quarterly averages of the numbers of animals processed at plants, numbers of occurrences of animal diseases and injuries and the numbers of inspections completed per region. (3)
Numerical Estimation
  • Estimate a variety of quantitative factors to assess conformity with inspection criteria. For example, they estimate the percentage of discoloured grapes in containers by visual examination, and the distances between pesticide storage areas and water courses by counting paces. (1)
  • Estimate the times required to carry out inspections. They review information on the types and locations of inspections and draw on previous experience. (2)
Oral communication Help - Oral communication
  • Interact with clients and their staff and suppliers about operational matters. For example, they may ask clients' staff to lay out shipments for inspection and arrange for services such as the cleaning of grain and recalibration of thermocouples. (1)
  • Discuss ongoing work with co-workers, colleagues and supervisors. They may discuss the distribution of daily and weekly inspection assignments with co-workers, and may exchange information about problem files with supervisors. They may discuss inspection procedures for unusual products, and inconsistencies in inspection results with colleagues in a variety of agencies and organizations. (2)
  • Respond to queries from clients and members of the public about topics such as food safety and food processing regulations. For example, they may explain regulations governing the importation of products to clients. They may warn members of the public about beaches affected by shell fish poisoning. (2)
  • May instruct co-workers when leading team inspections, resolving conflicts between clients and inspection staff and managing crises such as outbreaks of plant diseases. For example, a dairy inspector reviews sampling procedures with staff in response to clients' complaints that unsanitary sampling is causing high bacteria counts in their milk. A plant protection inspector explains the procedures for fumigating infested plants to inspection staff. (3)
  • May solicit and negotiate inspection contracts. For example, self-employed inspectors contact inspection agencies and potential clients to promote their services and negotiate fees and timelines. (3)
  • Interview clients and their staff to gather information for assessing conformity with standards. They ask open-ended questions and probe for specific details about the clients' products and processes. They may use tactful and skilful interrogation to elicit information from confused and evasive interviewees. (3)
  • Present inspection and audit results to clients and supervisors. They describe their inspection procedures, present findings and justify recommendations and decisions. They may need to explain the technical and regulatory reasons for controversial decisions to angry audiences. (3)
Thinking Help - Thinking Problem Solving
  • Find that clients are unavailable and unprepared for scheduled inspections. They arrange to interview alternates, reorder inspection tasks to allow clients time to prepare and suspend and reschedule inspections if necessary. They may charge clients for inspection time and expenses. (2)
  • Inspect new and unfamiliar products and encounter product conditions that are difficult to identify. For example, they may inspect imported novelty items that contain unspecified ingredients and products with defects and infestations that are not covered in identification tables. To ascertain the products' conformity with standards, they consult co-workers and technical experts and search for information on the internet and in textbooks. (2)
  • Face angry clients who challenge negative inspection results such as the closing of plants, detention of shipments and loss of certifications. They describe the areas of nonconformity, refer clients to the specific regulations and standards contravened and explain the steps clients can take to have orders lifted. To diffuse clients' anger and promote cooperation, they may help them to develop ways to meet regulated requirements. (3)
  • Detect inaccuracies and possible fraud in product labels and other documents. They may increase sizes of samples, ask for clarification and correction of information in documents and send samples for lab analysis. For example, a fish inspector suspects that a shipment of fish products includes skate wings cut to look like scallops. The inspector may seize the shipment for further investigation. (3)
Decision Making
  • May assign tasks to co-workers. For example, a poultry inspector who is a team leader decides to take several inspectors to inspect a facility that is processing a large number of chickens. The inspector considers existing work loads and differences in workers' abilities before assigning inspection tasks. (2)
  • May decide to bid on particular jobs. For example, self-employed inspectors consider the locations of inspection jobs, the time and expenses required and fees offered before taking on new inspection jobs. (2)
  • Select specific products and processes for inspections. For example, in large processing plants that produce many products, inspectors may conduct complete audits on products that use the most organic ingredients and that are the best sellers. A fish inspector may audit specific elements of a plant's processes based on a review of the plant's quality management plan. (2)
  • Decide to seek laboratory tests and other technical advice when they are uncertain of products' safety. For example, meat inspectors decide to consult veterinarians and order testing of carcass samples to check their observations of disease. They balance the dangers of not catching harmful conditions against the costs of unnecessary testing and plant closures. (3)
  • May order enforcement actions such as the fining of clients, closure of plants and the detention, quarantine, treatment, destruction, recall and re-export of commodities. They must be able to justify these enforcement actions by providing objective evidence of nonconformity and citing specific regulations and standards contravened. (3)
Critical Thinking
  • Judge the honesty of clients. For example, they may judge the truthfulness of clients' statements about providing safety training to their workers by reviewing records of training activity and questioning workers on their safety knowledge. (2)
  • Evaluate the effectiveness of work plans. For example, they may evaluate the effectiveness of recall efforts by exchanging information with producers, retailers and personnel at various government agencies and by analyzing data on products distributed and retrieved. (2)
  • Grade and assess the quality of products. They measure and conduct sensory examinations of products to assign grades according to specified criteria and to determine if products meet regulated standards. For example, they may grade grains, fruits and vegetables according to criteria for characteristics such as size, colour, firmness and a wide range of defects. They may assess if products to be exported meet the standards of receiving countries. (2)
  • Evaluate the quality of production processes and assess their conformity with applicable regulations and standards. They gather information about production processes by taking measurements, reading lab analysis results, examining production records, conducting inspections and interviewing clients and their staff. They analyze the data gathered to ensure that government regulations for plant, animal, and consumer safety have been followed. For example, they may audit farms and meat, fish and dairy processing plants to assess if their production procedures are in conformity with government regulations, certification standards and approved quality management program plans. (3)
Job Task Planning and Organizing

Own Job Planning and Organizing

Agricultural and fish products inspectors organize their job tasks to carry out scheduled inspections. Some inspectors carry out regular inspections of one commodity at one facility, while others inspect varied commodities and visit many facilities. Inspectors adjust their daily schedules to accommodate emergencies such as disease outbreaks. (3)

Planning and Organizing for Others

Inspectors may participate in developing operational policies and practices. For example, they may take part in committees to plan national training initiatives and set certification agencies' inspection fees. Inspectors who are supervisors and team leaders coordinate and monitor the work of other inspectors and seasonal crews. For example, they may assign tasks to other inspectors during team audits of large plants and coordinate summer student crews in the gathering of contaminated products. (3)

Significant Use of Memory
  • Remember the names of pathogens, insects, fungicides and pesticides.
  • Remember the criteria of various grades of products. For example, they may remember twenty-five grades of grain.
Finding Information
  • Find information about unfamiliar products and abnormalities. They consult textbooks, web sites, co-workers, colleagues technical experts such as botanists, veterinarians and food scientists and images such as x-rays of animal carcasses and microscope photographs of plant cells. For example, an inspector may search for information on the ingredients and processing methods of smoked duck and thousand-year-old eggs from China. (2)
  • Find background information about clients' businesses in order to prepare for inspections and audits. They examine documents provided by clients, look at past inspection and infraction reports and speak with co-workers who are familiar with the clients. (2)
  • Find information about food storage and processing operations. They examine documents, take measurements, carry out inspections and talk to clients, their workers, sub-contractors and their suppliers. For example, a fruit inspector looks for evidence in shipping documents and production records when investigating possible fraud. A dairy inspector questions farmers, equipment washers and milk truck drivers about their procedures and reviews lab tests on milk samples from each of several hundred cows to trace the sources of contamination. (3)
Digital technology Help - Digital technology
  • May use other computer and software applications. For example, they may use computer weigh scale systems to monitor the weight of grain loaded into rail cars. (1)
  • Use word processing. For example, they write letters and reports using basic text editing and page formatting functions. (2)
  • May use graphics software. For example, they may prepare slide presentations for staff training sessions using presentation software such as PowerPoint. They may scan photographs of insects and product defects when seeking advice on pest and disease identification. (2)
  • Use communications software. For example, they use e-mail to communicate with co-workers, colleagues, clients and technical experts about subjects such as inspection schedules and identification of product conditions. They may attach zip files, digital photographs and other data files. (2)
  • Use the Internet. For example, they search food industry and government web sites for technical and regulatory information. They use search engines such as Google to find the locations of inspection sites. (2)
  • May use hardware and system skills. For example, self-employed inspectors may install and set up virus and spyware control applications and other software on business computers. (2)
  • Use databases. For example, they may use a variety of databases to file inspection reports and expense claims, search for policy and procedural information and log actions taken. They may create databases for managing clients' contact information and query databases for specific inspection information such as numbers of animals infected at various sites. (3)
  • Use spreadsheets. For example, they may log daily activities in measurement reports and record measurements and production data in pre-existing spreadsheets. They may design spreadsheets for recording income and expenses, maintaining client lists, developing sampling plans and work schedules. They may use spreadsheets to analyze performance data and generate graphs. (3)
Additional information Help - Additional information Other Essential Skills:

Working with Others

Agricultural and fish products inspectors work independently most of the time but they coordinate and integrate job tasks with other inspectors and personnel from a variety of organizations to carry out larger inspections, investigations and interdictions. Inspectors who are supervisors and team leaders coordinate the work of crews during team inspections and crisis outbreaks. They may also coordinate job tasks with personnel in other agencies to carry out crisis management tasks, such as the recall of contaminated products. (2)

Continuous Learning

Agricultural and fish products inspectors engage in continuous learning to stay abreast of changes in food industry practices, legislation and inspection policies. Much of their learning is gained through working with different products and processes, reading industry publications, consulting with co-workers and colleagues and reading technical and regulatory updates issued by governments and inspection agencies. They also attend seminars and take courses on topics such as new food processing technologies and plant and animal diseases. They may be required to maintain certifications in skill areas such as food and environmental safety and to take training in the use of their organizations' computer systems. They may also choose to expand their areas of expertise by taking training in the inspection of additional commodities. (2)

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