Improving Safety Inspections

Tom McCoy
Safety Advisor

Regular workplace inspections Improving Safety Inspections play an essential role in preventing all sorts of incidents, injuries, illnesses, property damages, or loss of revenue. Some companies, largely out of a desire to reduce expenses, skip these important inspections. That creates a short-term solution at best — or at worst, an accident waiting to happen.

The reality is critical examinations of workplace safety actually help business owners reduce costs, injuries, and potential liabilities. Regular professional inspections will not only identify potential hazards, but will also provide opportunities to issue corrective actions, better understand the hazards associated with the jobs and tasks employees are performing and establish a channel for listening to the concerns of employees.

1. Identify Potentially Hazardous Situations
Every inspection needs to take a close look at all elements of the workplace — essentially the who, what, where, when, and how. Some areas and elements like lighting, temperature, vibration, and ventilation warrant extra attention because they could develop into unsafe or unhealthy conditions over time. In addition, inspections should be performed in all locations in which work is regularly performed, as well as in ancillary locations that are part of the workplace, such as parking lots, locker rooms, and rest areas.

Workplaces may include a wide variety of hazardous situations. Generally, they can be classified as biological, chemical, ergonomic, physical, psychological, and safety hazards. Because the definition of what constitutes as hazard is broad, inspectors need to look beyond issues involving faulty or improper equipment. The presence of viruses, bacteria, fungi, and parasites; physical issues like repetitive and forceful movements, as well as prolonged awkward postures; and issues such as noise, temperature, overwork, stress, or even violence all have effects on the well-being of workers.

2. Listen to Employee Concerns
While a safety professional performing an inspection will be able to observe potential hazards, it’s important to involve employees in the process. The employees with the greatest exposure to the day-to-day activities are likely to be well aware of the hazards of the work. Listening to their concerns will prove valuable in determining what areas need particular attention, as well as what improvements are necessary to streamline operations and increase productivity.

In addition, involving employees in the inspection process reinforces that they play an important role in ensuring safety in the workplace — and it demonstrates their employer is interested in their well-being. Both of these have a positive effect on worker morale and compliance with safety efforts.

3. Identify Root Causes
A safety professional who identifies a hazard during an inspection helps to protect workers, but a professional who also looks for underlying issues that may have contributed to creating that hazard can prevent a reoccurrence of the same hazard in the future.

As an example, suppose the inspector notices that a machine guard on a particular piece of equipment is frequently missing, because it falls off and employees fail to immediately reattach it. Looking more closely, the inspector identifies loose mounting bolts that cause the equipment to vibrate, which causes the guard to fall off. Tightening the bolts eliminates the vibration, which means the guard remains attached.

4. Report Everything to Management
Hazards and safety violations should never be ignored or swept under the rug. The sooner an issue is identified and reported, the easier and less costly it will be to fix, and the less likely it will lead to an incident. All hazards and other issues should be documented and shared with supervisors so appropriate action can be taken.

Anything that seems out of the ordinary, potentially dangerous, or otherwise impacting productivity or well-being should be addressed as soon as possible, for everyone’s benefit.

5. Make Recommendations
When it comes to safety, it’s not enough to simply identify an issue. A successful workplace safety inspection also includes well-defined, realistic solutions for correcting the hazard or problem. By offering a way to prevent or eliminate the hazard, the inspector completes the circle, helping to improve conditions in the workplace.

Regular workplace inspections are not a drain on resources, as some managers may believe, but the opposite. They ensure that everything runs smoothly and without interruption, all the while keeping the workforce safe and productive.

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