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:
Listen to the concerns of workers.
Gain further understanding of jobs and tasks.
Identify existing and potential hazards.
Determine underlying causes of hazards.
Monitor hazard controls (personal protective equipment, engineering controls, policies, and procedures.
Recommend corrective action.
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.
What types of hazards do we look for in the workplace? Types of workplace hazards include:
Safety hazards such as inadequate machine guards, unsafe workplace conditions, and unsafe work practices.
Physical hazards caused by noise, vibration, energy, weather, heat, cold, electricity, radiation, and pressure.
Chemical hazards caused by a solid, liquid, vapor, gas, dust, fume, or mist.
Ergonomic hazards caused by anatomical, physiological, and psychological demands on the worker. These include repetitive and forceful movements, vibration, temperature extremes, and awkward postures arising from improper work methods and improperly designed workstations, tools, and equipment.
Biological hazards caused by organisms such as viruses, bacteria, fungi, and parasites.
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.
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.
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.
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:
Draw attention to the presence of any immediate danger—other items can await the final report.
Shut down and “lock out” any hazardous items that cannot be brought to a safe operating standard until repaired.
Do not operate equipment. Ask the operator for a demonstration. If the operator of any piece of equipment does not know what dangers may be present, this is cause for concern. Never ignore any item because you don’t have knowledge to make an accurate judgment of safety.
Look up, down, around, and inside. Be methodical and thorough. Do not spoil the inspection with a “once-over-lightly” approach.
Clearly describe each hazard and its exact location in your rough notes. Allow “on-the-spot” recording of all findings before they are forgotten. Record what you have or have not examined in case the inspection is interrupted.
Ask questions, but do not unnecessarily disrupt work activities. This may interfere with efficient assessment of the job function and may also create a potentially hazardous situation.
Ask yourself the question, “Can any problem, hazard, or accident generate from this situation when looking at the equipment, the process, or the environment?” Determine what corrections or controls are appropriate.
Don’t try to detect all hazards simply by relying on your senses or by looking at them during the inspection. You may have to monitor equipment to measure the levels of exposure to chemicals, noise, radiation, or biological agents.
Take a photograph if you are unable to clearly describe or
sketch a particular situation. Instant
developing photographs are especially useful.
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:
Priorities for corrective action.
Need for improving safe work practices.
Insight about why accidents are occurring in particular areas.
Need for training in certain areas.
Areas and equipment that require more in-depth hazard analysis.
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
Copies to: _________________ Inspected by: ___________________