Workplace inspections help prevent injuries and identify to record hazards. Corrective actions should be taken to minimize the risk of injuries. Workplace inspections should be a very important part of every Occupational Health & Safety Program.
The purpose of inspections is to allow employers to listen to the concerns of workers and supervisors, gain an understanding of jobs and tasks, identify existing and potential hazards and determine the underlying causes of hazards and finally to recommend corrective action.
Depending on your company, inspections can be carried monthly, quarterly or as frequently as needed (recommended monthly). The frequency of planned formal inspections can be determined by past accident/incident records, number of shifts (as the activity of every shift may vary) and new processes or machinery. High risk areas should receive extra attention and should be inspected more frequently.
It is often recommended to conduct inspections as often as committee meetings but not to conduct an inspection immediately before a committee meeting. Try to separate inspections and meetings by at least one week as this will allow time for small items to be fixed and gives the committee an opportunity to focus on issues requiring further action.
Formal inspections should be carried out by a Health & Safety Representative/Committee Member and the employer, (or a member of management), especially if they have received training or certification. Other employees who should be part of the inspection team are those that are knowledgeable of regulations and procedures and may be aware of potential hazards and have experience with the work procedures involved.
The types of hazards to look for in an inspection will depend upon the type of environment, equipment and process used for your business. Some of the hazards to look for are:
- Safety Hazards: Inadequate machine guards, unsafe workplace conditions, unsafe work practices
- Biological Hazards: Caused by organisms such as viruses, bacteria, fungi and parasites
- Chemical Hazards: Solid, liquid, vapour, gas, dust, fume or mist
- Ergonomic Hazards: Anatomical, physiological, and psychological demands on the worker, such as repetitive and forceful movements, vibration, temperature extremes, and awkward postures arising from improper work methods and improperly designed workstations, tools, and equipment
- Physical Hazards: Noise, vibration, energy, weather, heat, cold, electricity, radiation and pressure.
The information to include in an inspection report could be:
- Diagrams: Drawing of a plant layout or floor plans
- Equipment: Type of machinery or equipment used and a review of the technical safety data sheets
- Chemical: Determine which chemicals are used and whether material safety data sheets (MSDS’s) are available
- Checklists: Clarify responsibilities, controls of inspections. Once completed, it provides a written record of the inspection being carried out
- Reports: Inspection reports are important as past reports provide hazards identified and areas the inspection team concentrated on. Reports can also help to identify areas where hazards may have caused multiple injuries.
A report should include all unfinished items from the previous report with details of the hazard such as location and recommended method of control. Each hazard should also be assigned a priority level and a corrective date.
Finally, management must be made aware of the problems in a concise, factual way so that they can understand and evaluate the problems, assign priorities and quickly reach decisions.