Effective Workplace Inspections

Workplace inspections help prevent injuries and illnesses. Through critical examination of the work-place, inspections identify and record hazards for corrective action.  Regular workplace inspections are an important part of the overall occupational health and safety program.  As an essential part of a health and safety program, safety personnel and supervisors examine the workplace to:

Planning For Inspections

Planning is essential for an effective inspection.  Every inspection must examine who, what, when, and how.  Pay particular attention to items most likely to develop unsafe or unhealthy conditions because of stress, wear, impact, vibration, heat, corrosion, chemical reaction, or misuse.  Inspect the entire workplace area each time.  Include areas where no work is done regularly, such as parking lots, rest areas, office storage areas, and locker rooms.  Look at all workplace elements—the environment, the equipment, and the process.  The environment includes such hazards as noise, vibration, lighting, temperature, and ventilation.  Equipment includes materials, tools, and apparatus for producing a product or service.  The process involves how the worker interacts with the other elements in a series of tasks or operations.

Looking For Hazards

What types of hazards do we look for in the workplace?  Types of workplace hazards include:

Information Needed For Inspections

Diagram of Area

Use drawings of facility layout or floor plans to help you draw a diagram.  Visualize the activities in the workplace and identify the location of machinery, equipment, and materials.  Concentrate on the particular types of hazards for the area that you will be inspecting.

Equipment Inventory

Know what type of machinery or equipment is present.  Review technical safety data sheets or manufacturers’ safety manuals.  Look at work area records to become familiar with the injury and illness potential of the equipment.

Chemical Inventory

Determine which chemicals are used in the work-place and whether material safety data sheets are available.  Find out whether actual and potential sources of chemical exposure are properly con-trolled.  Make sure that all workers have received training in handling chemicals.  Check that all chemicals are properly labeled with pertinent information such as handling, storage, and waste disposal.


A checklist helps to clarify inspection responsibilities, controls inspection activities, and provides a report of inspection activities.  Checklists permit easy on the spot recording of findings and comments but be careful.  Don’t become so intent on noting the details listed that you overlook other hazardous conditions.  Use checklists only as a basic tool to assist you in your inspection.


Inspection reports are important.  Past inspection records show what has been identified.  They also show what may have been concentrated on previously and what areas may not have been covered.  The inspection report can draw attention to possible hazards.  Use the inspection reports to determine whether previous recommendations were implemented.

Performing The Inspection

Supervisor Involvement

Supervisors are responsible for taking action to prevent accident and injury.  Supervisors have an advantage in safety inspections because of familiarity with workers, equipment, and environment.  This familiarity can also be a disadvantage because it can interfere with a supervisor’s objectivity. Before inspecting a department or area contact the supervisor in charge; but the supervisor should not act as a tour guide. You must remain independent and make uninfluenced observations. 

If the supervisor of the area does not accompany the inspection, consult the supervisor before leaving the area.  Discuss each recommendation with the supervisor.  Report items that the super-visor can immediately correct.  Note these on your report as corrected.  This keeps the records clear and serves as a reminder to check the condition during the next inspection.

Although a supervisor may interpret reporting as a criticism, you cannot fail to report hazards. Remember to remain objective and maintain an attitude that is firm, friendly, and fair.


Look for deviations from accepted work practices. Use statements such as, “a worker was observed operating a machine without a guard.”  Don’t use information derived from inspections for disciplinary measures.  When conducting inspections, follow these basic principles:

Preparing The Final Report

To make a report, first copy all unfinished items from the previous report on the new report.  Then write down the observed unsafe condition and re-commend methods of control.  Enter the department or area inspected, the date, and the inspector’s name and title at the top of the page.  Number each item consecutively; followed by a hazard classification of items according to the chosen scheme.

State exactly what has been detected and accurately identify its location.  Instead of stating “machine unguarded”—state “guard missing on upper pulley, #6 lathe in North Building.”

Assign a priority level to the hazards observed to indicate the urgency of the corrective action required.  For example:

A = Major—requires immediate action

B = Serious—requires short-term action

C = Minor—requires long-term action

Make management aware of the problems in a concise, factual way.  Management should be able to understand and evaluate the problems, assign priorities, and quickly reach decisions.  Take immediate action as needed.  When permanent correction takes time, take any temporary measures you can such as roping off the area, tagging out equipment, or posting warning signs.

After each listed hazard, specify the recommended corrective action and establish a definite correction date. Before presenting to management, carefully review the report for accuracy, clarity, and thoroughness.

Follow-Up And Monitoring

Review the information obtained from regular inspections to identify where immediate corrective action is needed.  Use this information to identify trends and obtain timely feedback.  Analysis of inspection reports may show the following:

Health and safety personnel along with management should review the progress of the recommendations, especially when they pertain to the education and training of employees.  Studying the information from regular inspections will help in identifying trends for the maintenance of an effective health and safety program.


Example of Workplace Inspection Report


Inspection Location: __________________ Date of Inspection: __________________


Department/Areas Covered: _______________ Time of Inspection: __________________








For Future Follow-up



Item and Location


Hazard(s) Observed


Repeat Item

 Y    N





Recommended Action


Responsible Person


Action Taken














Copies to: _________________ Inspected by: ___________________