Podcast Title: Health and Safety to Go!

Episode #170:  Workplace Inspections During the COVID-19 Pandemic



Introduction:   Welcome to Health and Safety to Go! broadcasting from the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety.

Host:  Thank you for joining us for this episode of Health and Safety to Go. Our guest today is Amy Campbell, Health and Safety Program Manager at CCOHS. In today’s podcast, Amy will be discussing workplace inspections and how if they have changed during the current COVID-19 pandemic.

Thank you for joining us today Amy.

Amy: It’s my pleasure, thank you.

Host: First off, why do we have workplace inspections?

Amy: At their core, workplace inspections facilitate hazard identification. It’s a systematic approach to searching out aspects of work where there is a risk to employees and taking the opportunity to correct it before something happens.

Host: Have workplace inspections changed with COVID-19?  

Amy: COVID-19 has changed so much about work and workplaces.  Simple aspects of work like clocking in and out, gathering around the watercooler or going into a meeting room, now require significant thought and attention. The risk to employees means health and safety professionals and workplace parties are navigating new challenges.

Workplace inspections now need to reflect this new reality and the risk to employees. During an inspection employers or committee members or representatives need to apply another lens to all parts of the work activity, processes and the work environment. With many employees working remotely, the traditional workplace inspection activity needs to adapt too.

Host: What are inspectors looking out for?

Amy: Primarily, regulatory agencies that employ inspectors are out there to ensure that the internal responsibility system is working.  That is to say, are the workplace parties working together to ensure the hazards in the workplace are being properly identified, as best and adequately controlled. They want to know is there a functioning health and safety system in the workplace, or is it simply a binder on a shelf collecting dust in a back office.

Some inspections by the regulator are proactive, where they are supporting workplace parties to understand the responsibilities regarding a new piece of legislation perhaps. In other cases, inspectors would conduct “blitzes” to address high risk work activities or to protect a vulnerable group of workers.  For example, during early summer months, doing blitz inspections for young workers. But some inspections arise because of complaints from the workplace or because there has been a concerning number of accidents or injuries there.

Host: Do workplace inspections differ from province to province?

Amy: Yes, there are 14 jurisdictions across Canada covering occupational health and safety matters, and there are differences between provinces and territories. Employers need to ensure that employees are well-trained to know about the hazards in their workplace and the regulatory requirements that apply to them, including who is responsible for workplace inspections and how often do they need to be performed.

Host: Do you have any closing thoughts or advice that you would like to leave us with today?

Amy: In light of COVID-19, workplace inspections are even more important, and the value of having well trained committee members or representatives can’t be understated.  My best advice is to engage frequently with workers and their representatives and think outside the box when challenges present themselves.  Creative solutions and collaboration are going to be the name of the game.

Host: Thanks for talking with us today Amy. Amy Campbell is a Health and Safety Program Manager here at CCOHS and has worked as a Regulatory Enforcement Officer conducting inspections at workplaces throughout the federal jurisdiction.

More information about workplace inspections can be found at www.ccohs.ca. Thanks for listening everyone.