Workplace inspections are an opportunity to identify hazards and assess risk in your workplace on an ongoing basis. As part of a proactive injury-prevention process, inspections reveal the current state of your workplace and any activities that you can see. Workplace inspections can help you identify hazards and prevent unsafe working conditions from developing.
A comprehensive workplace inspection program may include daily inspections of equipment, initial startup inspections, walk-arounds of mobile equipment before use, daily and/or weekly supervisor inspections, and weekly and/or monthly departmental inspections. In addition to regularly scheduled inspections, you need to inspect your workplace after an incident or when you have added a new work process or new equipment.
Conducting an inspection
During an inspection, identify unsafe conditions and activities that may cause injury or illness, so you can take corrective measures. Follow these guidelines:
- Use a checklist to ensure that your inspection is thorough and consistent with previous inspections.
- Ask yourself what hazards are associated with the job that you are observing or that would be performed in that work area.
- Observe how workers perform tasks. Do they follow safe work procedures and use personal protective equipment as required?
- Ask workers how they perform their tasks.
- Talk to workers about what they're doing. Ask them about concerns they may have about health and safety.
- Record any unsafe actions or conditions that you observe.
- Consider tasks that the worker may also perform that you did not observe.
What to focus on
There are different ways to approach safety inspections. Looking at the components of your health and safety program will help. For example, you can focus on the most common tasks your workers perform or on specific issues addressed by your program, such as material handling, confined space entry, or workplace violence. You may wish to break up the worksite into specific segments with focused checklists to look at specific hazards and activities in each area.
Here are some examples of things to look for:
- Uncorrected problems from the previous inspection report
- Workers not following safe work procedures or procedures that aren’t correct
- Improper storage of materials (for example, in front of emergency exits or electrical panels, or blocking aisles or stairs)
- Accumulation of liquid or grease on floors
- Failure to put a sign or barrier near wet floors
- Lack of guarding on equipment
- Lack of visibility through swinging doors
- Poor maintenance of equipment
If your inspection reveals a problem, try to get to the root of it. For example, if you see a wet floor, ask why. Possible explanations could include a water leak, a job process that's creating the problem, or a lack of training on how to clean up the hazard. Fix it right the first time and the problem is less likely to occur.
For more information on conducting a safety inspection, see the Safety Inspections Workbook.
After the inspection
Follow these guidelines to address issues and conclude the inspection:
- Remedy serious hazards or unsafe work practices immediately; this is a legal obligation. For example, if you find that a ladder has a loose or damaged rung, immediately remove the ladder from service and repair or replace it.
- Prioritize other, less serious hazards and assign someone to remedy each one.
- Follow up on any actions that will take time to complete (for example, purchasing new equipment).
- Communicate inspection findings to workers.
- Ensure that the safety committee has access to, and reviews, the inspection reports and process.