Keeping the workplace safe and all employees healthy are some of the most crucial responsibilities of any employer or business owner. Safety risks are inherent to running any business, as anything from stray electrical wiring in an office to heavy machinery in a factory to fall hazards at a construction site can cause injuries to workers. These risks must be mitigated through proper risk management and safety training.
Before managing the risks, however, you need to know what those risks are. A safety inspection helps you find the potential hazards in your workplace so you can take corrective actions before they do any harm.
Safety inspections must be carried out regularly to ensure that your workplace is always safe and complying with regulations. Here’s when a safety inspection is necessary:
- Immediately after a workplace incident to find out what went wrong (supplementary to the incident report)
- At the start of any new project, to identify specific hazards associated with the project
- On a regular basis — perhaps once a quarter — so you can be sure that safety measures are up to date
Of course, an inspection is not useful unless all findings are well-documented. A thorough inspection report recording all the inspection findings in detail can be referred to while implementing and reviewing actions for mitigating the safety hazards. An effective site inspection report not only summarizes all the safety risks identified and preventive measures already in place, but also outlines recommendations to manage the risks not currently being controlled for.
A good inspection report contains all the data necessary for safety officers and managers to create a workplace safety plan and risk management procedures. In the event of an incident, it can also be used as evidence during insurance claims.
In this article, we’ll cover how to write an effective inspection report, what the report should include, and tools you can use to help you during the process, including a handy inspection report template.
How to Write an Effective Inspection Report
A good inspection report is clear, concise, and includes specific information about which actions should be taken to ensure safety. The contents of each report may vary depending on what is to be inspected. In large organizations, different teams or job sites may need to prepare inspection reports, and what is included in those reports would depend on the size of the team, the available resources, and the nature of work (e.g., on-site work involving machines or chemicals would have different risks compared to work done on computers). But here are some considerations so your inspection report will be effective and actionable.
The Safety Inspection Process
While you’re conducting the safety inspection, documenting it clearly and effectively should be a priority. In this way, you are preparing to write the inspection report. The inspection should be streamlined and your notes should be organized in such a way that you don’t miss anything while creating the report.
To make the process easier, you can use tools such as:
- An inspection report form to note all the details of the inspection in an organized manner
- Inspection checklists to ensure you cover everything necessary
- A predefined inspection report template so you know what to document
The Audience for the Inspection Report
Your inspection report could ultimately be meant for different types of audiences. For example, the report of a routine safety inspection would probably stay internal, but you may need to show it to external parties (such as the Occupational Safety and Health Administration or insurance companies) on request. On the other hand, an inspection carried out after an incident or at the beginning of a project may be meant for external audiences in the first place, such as service providers, customers, and regulators.
Once you can guess at the likely audience for the report, you can decide on the language and terminology that should be used to ensure that the information is communicated clearly to whoever is reading it. For instance, an internal report can include company jargon that only employees would understand, but a report meant for regulators or customers should avoid such specialized language.
Consistency Across the Organization
Depending on the size of your business, it may be a challenge to keep the tone, language, and clarity of your documentation consistent. Especially in large organizations with multiple branches, it’s important that safety inspection reports adhere to a common quality standard. This is because safety is not confined to a single team, department, or site but is an organization-wide issue. So, the inspection report may be read and acted on by employees across sites and departments, and everyone should be able to understand exactly what the report says and what needs to be done with it.
Good Writing Practices
A well-written inspection report is concise, factual, and structured. The information described should be specific rather than vague. For example, you should write: “Pipe leakage in 5th boiler room on 2nd floor,” instead of just, “Pipe leakage in boiler room.” Other good writing practices include:
- Using short, easily understandable sentences
- Numbering any lists
- Avoiding acronyms
- Proofreading your report to avoid grammatical errors
- Using easy-to-read font, a moderate font size and spacing (between words, lines, and paragraphs)
Finally, make sure to recognize all of the good. Mention the industry best practices being followed and the safety measures already in place. This acknowledgement helps to build a good relationship with the workers and supervisors, which is always beneficial for a good workplace culture and encourages them to cooperate during inspections. Also, acknowledging the good further facilitates the workplace safety culture.
What Should Be the Report Format?
Most business reports have a specific, consistent format. Structuring your inspection report according to the common format helps to make it clear and easily readable for all stakeholders involved. A report typically has the following sections:
- A title page summarizing key details about the report, such as the inspection date; the purpose of this inspection; recipients of the report (names and contact information, if required); and names and job titles of the participants involved
- A table of contents page detailing what is included, to make it easy for readers of the report to find what they are looking for
- An executive summary briefly highlighting the main issue (or issues). This would include the reason for the inspection, the key issues identified, and priorities for action. Company executives typically only read this section.
- The main body of the report, which should include a systematic list of observations and their descriptions. Each observation (hazard/risk) should be clear, specific, and detailed but also concise. Also, each observation must be accompanied by a recommendation for action. It may also be a good idea here to outline a follow-up process and deadlines for corrective actions.
- A conclusion summarizing the important points, planned actions, and any further steps to be taken.
Information to Include in the Inspection Report
The specific information you include in your inspection report would usually depend on the observations you make during the inspection and the nature of work being inspected. But here is some general information that typically needs to be present in all inspection reports:
- The risks to employees that were identified during the inspection (including observation by the inspectors, as well as the risks reported by the employees themselves)
- The measures already in place to protect the employees, and which risks these measures mitigate
- Recommendations of safety measures to be taken to address each identified risk or hazard. A priority level needs to be assigned to each risk/recommendation, depending on the severity of risk and urgency of the action required
- Technical information about hazards (such as the operating condition of a particular machine) and precautions that need to be taken related to them. For example, any safety measures that would be necessary during the operation and/or maintenance of machinery or equipment or precautions needed while using any chemicals
- If the inspection is a result of an incident, details and statistics related to the occurrence must be noted
- Instructions related to expected responses or follow-up meetings, including when the meeting would take place, who needs to be present, and what should be done by then. You could incorporate spaces to document the progress of corrective actions in the inspection report itself. That would make it easier to manage follow-ups. For example, create two columns next to each recommendation, labeled “assigned to” and “completed on” respectively, to be filled in as required
- References to past inspection reports so that anyone interested can see the hazards identified and safety measures instituted during earlier inspections. This would help determine whether any recommendations have already been implemented, and how effective those changes were
Streamline Your Inspection Reporting Process With a Cloud-Based Solution
Writing an inspection report effectively, in a way that corrective actions can be taken promptly and safety is taken seriously, can be a daunting task. And keeping the report in mind while conducting your inspection can get overwhelming, especially if everything is done manually.
Besides, handling so many paper documents — inspection checklists, inspection form templates, earlier inspection reports, and more — can lead to errors, and paper can always be misplaced. Using a software solution such as Pulpstream to manage your inspections and report writing can make your work much easier. You can access all the checklists and forms online, and copy your observations directly onto an online (Excel or Microsoft Word) inspection report template. This can save you time and effort, and allow you to focus on the critical, practical steps, such as deciding on corrective actions that need to be taken.