Workplace inspections help prevent injuries and illnesses. Through critical examination of the workplace, inspections identify and record hazards for corrective action. Joint occupational health and safety committees can help plan, conduct, report and monitor inspections. 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, workplaces should be inspected. Inspections are important as they allow you to:
Planning is essential for an effective inspection.
Every inspection must examine who, what, where, 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 a service. The process involves how the worker interacts with the other elements in a series of tasks or operations.
Types of workplace hazards include:
Use drawings of plant layout, or floor plans to help you draw a diagram. Divide the workplace into areas based on the process. Visualize the activities in the workplace and identify the location of machinery, equipment and materials. Show the movement of material and workers, and the location of air ducts, aisles, stairways, alarms and fire exits. Appendix A contains a sample diagram.
Use several simple diagrams if the area is large. Concentrate on particular types of hazards in the area. If chemicals are the main concern, make sure the diagram emphasizes chemicals. Do the same for all other hazards, such as noise and lighting. Explain the contents of the diagram in a legend. Describe the steps of each operation. Obtain worker and supervisor comments on the diagram-they know the area better than anyone else.
Know what type of machinery or equipment is present. Review technical safety data sheets, or manufacturers' safety manuals. Read work area records to become familiar with the injury and illness potential of the equipment.
Determine which chemicals are used in the workplace and whether material safety data sheets are available. Find out whether actual and potential sources of chemical exposure are properly controlled. Make sure that all workers have received training in handling chemicals. Check that all chemicals are labelled with pertinent information (such as handling, storage, and waste disposal) according to Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System (WHMIS) requirements.
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. Do not allow the inspection team to become so intent on noting the details listed that it misses other hazardous conditions. Use checklists only as a basic tool. Refer to the related documents for sample checklists that you can use as a guide to develop a checklist for your workplace.
Inspection records are important. Past inspection records show what has been identified. They also show what an inspection team concentrated on and what areas it did not inspect. The inspection report can draw attention to possible hazards. However, do not simply repeat or copy previous inspections. Use the inspection report to determine whether previous recommendations were implemented.
The following describes three other types of inspection reports:
Supervisors and workers continually conduct ongoing inspections as part of their job responsibilities. Such inspections identify hazardous conditions and either correct them immediately or report them for corrective action. The frequency of these inspections varies with the amount and conditions of equipment use. Daily checks by users assure that the equipment meets minimum acceptable safety requirements.
Pre-operation checks involve inspections of new or modified equipment or processes. Often these are done after workplace shutdowns.
Periodic inspections are regular, planned inspections of the critical components of equipment or systems that have a high potential for causing serious injury or illness. The inspections are often part of preventive maintenance procedures or hazard control programs. The law specifies that qualified persons periodically inspect some types of equipment, such as elevators, boilers, pressure vessels, and fire extinguishers, at regular intervals.
Health and safety committee members are obvious choices of personnel to carry out formal inspections, especially if they have received training or certification.
Other criteria for selecting the inspection team are:
Engineers, maintenance personnel, occupational hygienists, health and safety professionals, supervisors or managers may be a part of the inspection team or they may be called upon to help with certain aspects of the inspection, or to help explain equipment or processes.
Large workplaces may have more than one inspection team. The various teams can have separate areas to inspect.
It depends. 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 is also a disadvantage because it can interfere with a supervisor's objectivity. If the supervisor is not on the inspection team, before inspecting a department or area, the team should contact the supervisor in charge but the supervisor should not act as a tour guide.
If the supervisor of the area does not accompany the inspection team, consult the supervisor before leaving the area. Discuss each recommendation with the supervisor. Report items that the supervisor can immediately correct. Note these on the 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, inspection team cannot fail to report hazards. Retain objectivity and maintain an attitude that is firm, friendly, and fair.
Nobody can accurately estimate how long each inspection will take. The time required depends on what is found, how many questions are asked, and how large and complex the work area is. Inspections are ineffective when the given time allows for only a hasty look.
The purpose is to keep the workplace free of hazards. The schedule should state:
How often inspections are performed will depend on several factors:
High hazard or high risk areas should receive extra attention.
It is often recommended to conduct inspections as often as committee meetings. Do not conduct an inspection immediately before a committee meeting but try to separate inspections and meetings by at least one week. This time allows for small items to be fixed and gives the committee an opportunity to focus on issues requiring further action.
Discuss the planned inspection route before undertaking the inspection. Review where inspection team members are going and what they are looking for. For example, during the inspection, "huddle" before going into noisy areas. This eliminates the need for arm waving, shouting and other unsatisfactory methods of communication.
For inspections, wear personal protective equipment (PPE) where required. If you do not have PPE and cannot get any, do not enter the area. List this as a deficiency during the inspection. Re-inspect the area when PPE is provided.
Look for deviations from accepted work practices. Use statements such as, "a worker was observed operating a machine without a guard." Do not use information derived from inspections for disciplinary measures.
Some common poor work practices include:
When conducting inspections, follow these basic principles:
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 recommended methods of control. Enter the department or area inspected, the date and the inspection team's names and titles on 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. Each inspection team member should review for accuracy, clarity and thoroughness.
Review the information obtained from regular inspections to identify where immediate corrective action is needed. Identify trends and obtain timely feedback. Analysis of inspection reports may show the following:
The health and safety committee should review the progress of the recommendations, especially when they pertain to the education and training of employees. It is also the committee's responsibility to study the information from regular inspections. This will help in identifying trends for the maintenance of an effective health and safety program.
Inspection Location: __________________ Date of Inspection: __________________
Department/Areas Covered: __________ Time of Inspection: _____________
|Observations||For Future Follow-up|
|Item and Location||Hazard(s) Observed||Repeat Item |
Y / N
|Recommended Action||Responsible Person||Action Taken||Date|
Copies to: _________________ Inspected by: ___________________
Document last updated on March 1, 2009