Running any business comes with its own set of risks. Of all the types of risks, though, safety risks are the ones that demand the most attention. After all, ensuring a safe workplace for all employees is the responsibility of every employer. Potential safety hazards must be mitigated with an effective risk management process. Of course, before implementing such a process, safety risks and hazards need to be found. This is where site safety inspections come in.
A safety inspection involves a thorough scrutiny of the workplace to:
- Identify and record potential health and safety hazards
- Review safety equipment (e.g., fire extinguishers, first aid kits, safety shoes, protective gear, etc.)
- Examine the effectiveness of your workplace safety practices
- Check for compliance with health and safety regulations
- Recommend corrective actions to rectify or eliminate any hazards
In this article, we'll highlight why safety inspections are important and some best practices to ensure that your site safety inspections are effective.
Why Are Site Safety Inspections Important?
Conducting safety inspections in the workplace is important for several reasons. Regulatory compliance would be the first of these, as even though the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) doesn't mandate inspections, they strongly recommend it.
Of course, compliance is not the only reason to carry out regular inspections for hazards at your workplace. They can be an important part of your overall health and safety program, if your company has one. Some of the reasons for establishing a process for regular safety inspections include:
- They help prevent risk of accidents and injuries
- They create an atmosphere of safety and security in the workplace
- They show your commitment to ensuring your employees' well-being
- A detailed inspection report or an inspection certificate from a third party may also help you with property insurance issues, if you ever face them
5 Steps to Conduct an Effective Safety Inspection at Your Workplace
To conduct an effective safety inspection, it may be useful to consider it a part of a continuous improvement cycle to ensure the safest possible workplace for your employees. Here are the steps you can take to streamline your process.
1. Create an Inspection Strategy
Before conducting a safety inspection, it’s imperative to plan for it. Creating a safety inspection plan involves the following elements:
Since inspections should be regular, the first step would be to decide how regularly you're going to conduct them (ideally, one every six months or so) and when these inspections would be.
Try to ensure that your inspection covers all the shifts in the day, and also the areas where the work is not as regular (such as equipment maintenance activities) so that all possible hazards are explored. This schedule should then be communicated to all the stakeholders involved in the inspection (such as shift supervisors, managers, etc.).
A list of the inspectors
It is important to know who will be involved in the safety inspection process and to delegate duties according to the inspectors' individual skills, if applicable. It’s a good practice to establish a team for this purpose as placing the burden on a single person, even if they are highly trained, may lead to errors or omissions.
The team could consist of individuals with diverse skills — for example, trained safety professionals, equipment experts, and supervisors.
An inspection checklist
It’s useful to have an idea of what to look for before your team conducts the inspection. An inspection checklist tailored to your workplace may help the inspectors keep on track and ensure that they don't miss anything. For an efficient and streamlined process, you can organize the checklist into categories such as equipment safety, fall protection, accident risk, etc.
Finally, make sure to include all the elements of your workplace, including the people (e.g., whether your workers are following safety practices), the equipment (e.g., wear and tear, corrosion, etc.), and even the environment (e.g., noise, lighting, emissions, etc.)
A list of guidelines
Before you start inspecting your workplace, you may want to refer to relevant guidelines or standards to know what to look for. For instance, while checking for fire hazards, you can check the National Fire Protection Association’s Life Safety Code 101. NFPA's document outlines the minimum design, operation, and maintenance requirements for various types of spaces to ensure safety from fire or similar emergency situations.
2. Conduct the Safety Inspection
Once a comprehensive strategy has been created, it's time to carry out the inspection. The inspection team must observe all work processes and equipment closely, looking for possible workplace hazards including:
- Inadequate machine guards
- Malfunctioning safety equipment
- Absence of a well-stocked first aid kit
- Biological hazards such as parasites
- Environmental issues like fumes or radiation
- Physical hazards such as wear and tear of equipment, heat, electrical hazards, etc.
- Risks to the mental health of workers such as stress or workplace bullying
- Poor work practices like using machinery without adequate safety training, overloading equipment, using defective tools, repairing or adjusting equipment while it’s on, and more
You may be required to fill an inspection form, especially if you're conducting the safety inspection for insurance purposes. Even if it's not required, such a form may be useful to keep a record of your inspection data.
While conducting the inspections, it’s important to remember that the ultimate goal is not compliance but ensuring the safety of your workers, and even yourself. So, to ensure an effective, safe inspection, keep the following best practices in mind:
- Communicate any immediate danger or hazard to the relevant authorities without waiting for your report to reach them, so that they can fix the issue as soon as possible. For example, if a piece of equipment that is currently being used is unsafe, ensure that it’s shut down immediately to prevent accidents.
- Do not operate the equipment on your own if you are not trained to do so.
- Take copious notes, describing every hazard and the exact conditions under which it occurs.
- Ask the workers for additional information if you don't know about the particular work process or equipment without disrupting the work too much as unnecessary interruptions may result in safety issues.
- Record information such as equipment readings (exposure to chemicals, radiation levels, etc.), emissions inspections, hazardous conditions, and others in the form of notes, sketches, photographs, and videos if necessary.
- Remember that there are no exemptions in safety, and sometimes even little mistakes may be quite hazardous.
An online workplace inspection solution such as Pulpstream would help make your inspection process smoother and more efficient by helping you record and keep track of all the information in a single, intuitive platform rather than dealing with several forms and documentation. It would also be excellent for accessibility, as all the relevant stakeholders could view inspection data without the hassle of emails or other methods.
3. Review the Data
Once the inspection data is collected, it needs to be reviewed and analyzed to find gaps and take actions to mitigate the hazards and improve workplace practices.
Any trends in the collected data would help identify the root causes of issues and make changes at the enterprise level to prevent the hazards from occurring again. A cloud-based, automated inspection solution would make this work simple and efficient, analyzing trends and generating reports to make planning corrective actions easy.
4. Implement Corrective Actions
The whole process of inspecting your workplace for safety issues would be pointless if you don't use the data to help prevent risk.
In your inspection report, include a section proposing the actions to be taken to correct the hazards found. For example, if a certain work practice involves safety risk, the proposed action may be a recommendation to reform the practice. Or, if the data shows a concerning trend, a team may need to be instituted to investigate the matter further.
Make sure your proposed actions are comprehensive, including the delegation of work for all the proposed actions, deadlines for the actions to be completed, and a way to report the progress in this work by providing the teams responsible for corrective actions with the contact information of the stakeholders to report to.
5. Follow Up on Your Findings
Schedule regular follow-ups to ensure that your findings from the safety inspection are being acted upon. When the proposed deadlines for the actions pass, ask the relevant teams for progress reports and follow up with stakeholders to check if the solution is working.
If a hazard persists despite taking action, it might be that the root cause of the issue was not eliminated, making further analysis necessary. Remember that this is a continuous process and not something that can be forgotten once the inspection has been done.
Leverage the Power of Digitization for Frictionless Safety Inspections
The process of planning, conducting, and following up on safety inspections can get complicated with numerous forms, checklists, and a lot of inspection data. Managing all this manually can lead to inefficient work, and more crucially, errors that may adversely affect the safety of your workplace.
Using an automated online service such as Pulpstream's inspection management software is the best way to make the process smooth and safe. An online solution would help with every step, including planning and communicating those plans to relevant authorities, recording all the inspection data in a single platform, automatically analyzing the data for gaps and trends, and helping schedule corrective actions and follow-ups.
So what are you waiting for? Make your workplace safer today with Pulpstream. Click here for a free demo.