A Day In The Life Of A Trading Standards Officer
Below are a few diaries our officers have written giving a brief outline of their work on a typical day. Within the Trading Standards Service there are various roles that people carry out and many different areas of the law officers have to deal with, ensuring that the job differs from day-to-day.
A Day in the Life Of An Animal Health Officer
My name is Alex and I am a Trading Standards officer who primarily deals with the area of Farming Standards. The legislation we advise upon and enforce aims to protect the health and welfare of animals, prevent the spread of disease and protect the quality and safety of our food.
A typical example of my day is as follows:
8.15am: Arrive at a livestock market. Part of our statutory responsibilities is to attend markets and in Devon (where I work) we have 8. Whilst here I will check animal identification (ear tags etc), animal health and welfare (not lame, injured, unfairly handled or overcrowded in pens), the transport being used, correct movement forms used and cleanliness.
All of these measures help ensure the animals are safe and fairly treated, prevent the spread of disease and that meat is safe and well reared. We are also there to offer advice to farmers, dealers, hauliers and market operators on legislation and best practice. We normally manage to find five minutes to have a cup of tea too! Any issues will be recorded on a visit report form and discussed with any offenders.
11am: Record recall. Farms are required to keep records of all movements of animals on and off their farm and any medicines administered. Periodically we ask farmers to send in their records. If they don’t then we may pop in on our way past their farm to collect them.
12.30pm: Find a pub for lunch (you get to know the best ones).
1pm: Farm visit. We are required to make sure that farmers are sticking to the rules. One way of doing this is to carry out a farm visit and inspect animal accommodation, feed and medicine stores, records and on farm practices. This may be at random or as a result of a farmer doing something wrong at market. Again problems go onto a visit report form and serious problems may require further action.
3.30pm: An urgent call comes in from a colleague at Defra. We are required to investigate breaches in the legislation. This may require taking photos of some very unpleasant stuff, and could require the assistance of the police if a farmer doesn’t want us there. Common complaints are sick, dying or dead animals, those kept in poor conditions or not properly contained, incorrect identification or more often than not a combination of all of these. Incidents like this can result in formal action, an investigation and even a prosecution that may end in a fine or a ban on keeping animals.
4.30, 5.30, 6.30 or beyond: Home time (depending on where you end up or how serious a complaint is).
Whether it’s a lovely days work in the summer or a somewhat chilly day in the winter, no two days are the same, and you never quite know what you might end up dealing with.
A Day in the Life Of A Fair Trading Officer
My name is Jessica and I first joined Trading Standards as a consumer adviser undertaking some part-time advice work on behalf of Devon County Council during the foot and mouth crisis. The work seemed a lot more exciting than what I was doing in the retail sector and, perhaps more importantly, the job sparked enough interest for me to pursue a future career in Trading Standards!
In my position now I am mainly involved in enforcement. I don’t deal with food complaints but I do investigate underage sales and anything which infringes the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations – you know, seizing counterfeit goods like fake scarves that were being sold at a match between Exeter City and Manchester United.
I also investigate things like unsafe toys and products sold in a misleading way (for example products that say they are made of oak when they’re not), as well as dealing with safety issues such as cars unfit for the road.
When I started I had two ‘A’ levels, but while I’ve been working I’ve taken the Diploma in Consumer Affairs (DCA) course, which has been a great help with court procedure and contract law, and I’m going on now with the DCA part 2 qualification. I intend to take the Diploma in Trading Standards route to further qualifications that will turn a good job into a great job. But at any point, now and in the future, trading standards is going to be exciting work with variety and challenges.
A typical day would go as follows:
8.30: Start early – new year’s resolution! Start typing up report on fake oak furniture. We run a trader scheme called Buy with Confidence – plan audit for potential member.
10:00: Preparing a case on an unsafe car under Road Traffic Act. Visit garage to take statement from mechanic; will interview trader who sold car next week.
12:30: Consult distance-selling regulations before advising a trader over the phone. Arrange to inspect some food premises with member of the food standards team. Practical experience will help with Diploma in Consumer aAffairs (DCA) food paper in June.
13:00: Lunch and a little walk – another resolution!
14:00: Into Exeter city centre to discuss safety complaint with manager of national chain of kitchenware stores. Problem could be consumer misuse. Take product away to inspect back at base.
14:30: Big Exeter City v Manchester United game! Returning to car, notice street traders selling scarves and flags with copyrighted logos on them. Have seized similar merchandise before. Phone boss.
15:00: Meet up with colleagues to catch the street trader (much more fun than being in office!). Sometime later, with police, caution trader. 95 scarves bagged and tagged. Help take haul back to van and return to office.
16:00: Phone a complainant and discuss a safety issue with boss. Labelling and instructions could be improved on the product.
A Day in the Life Of A Petroleum Officer
Hi, my name’s Jez and for three days of my Trading Standards week my role is that of a Petroleum Officer (PO). In a nutshell this is a law-enforcement duty created by the need to protect public and property from explosions caused by petroleum, a liquid so combustible that a licence is required to store it in commercial quantities. Even home storage is controlled by legislation enforced by this Service.
A typical ‘petrol-day’ may pan out as follows:
7.45 am: Arrive at the office base and log on to the computer. Check e-mails, calendar and duty roster; if I am on emergency standby I need to ensure I keep various specialist kit nearby 24 hours a day. Check complaint/enquiry record system for any new work that may have been allocated to me, as well as update records from the previous day.
9.30am: Select the work to be carried out in the area to be visited today. Print any relevant enquiry records and dig out the files for the sites to be visited. Load the toolkit, paperwork and PPE into the vehicle and leave the office base.
10.30am: Arrive at the site chosen for a re-licensing inspection. This is effectively a site ‘MOT’, where I check that the site complies with all the safety requirements applicable. A licence to store petrol at the premises will have been issued by me, so it’s my signature on the line – this is my opportunity to ensure that the risk of explosion at the site is kept to the absolute minimum. Since I have to check all the manholes, dispensers, vents, LPG facilities and paperwork this can obviously take some time, sometimes all day. I then issue a visit report form listing any defects to be rectified. More serious problems may be given a time limit to rectify, and a re-visit may be scheduled.
1.30pm: Lunch at last! Find a local pub or café to ‘re-fuel’ (PO pun!). Catch up with trade documents, new codes of practice and recent developments in the industry. After lunch try to deal with some ongoing enquiries in the locality.
2pm: Visit a site where there had been a safety issue highlighted on the mandatory electrical test certificate – assess extent of remedial work and check new certificate.
2.45pm: Visit a site where work was carried out which affected the “approved arrangements” – ensure the work has been carried out as per the written approval I issued before work commenced.
3.30pm: Visit a building site which was once a petrol station – any disused underground petrol tanks must by law be made safe in an approved manner; a workman was recently injured at a similar site when he used an angle-grinder on an old tank that was still full of explosive vapour, decades after it last contained petrol. Assess extent of remedial work and take photographs for the appropriate “derelict tank” file; this information is often requested some time later when development takes place under the control of a completely different company.
4.15pm: Arrive at office base to check any urgent messages; return a call to a consumer regarding his unroadworthy car enquiry – it’s easy enough for me to limit my day to petrol work, but that doesn’t stop other incoming enquiries from those who only see me with my TSO hat on!
4.30pm: Head for home, happy that I’ve done my best to ensure no-one gets blown up today!!