Hazards can exist under desks, on the plant floor, in the air and pretty much any place people work. Inspecting the workplace regularly for hazards is an essential part of a health and safety program. Inspections help to prevent injuries and illnesses by identifying and eliminating actual and potential hazards.
There's more to a workplace inspection than just looking around. It involves listening to people's concerns, fully understanding jobs and tasks, determining the underlying causes of hazards, monitoring controls, and recommending corrective action. Regular, thorough, workplace inspections by a trained inspection team can help keep workers healthy and safe.
What the inspection should examine
An inspection must examine who, what, where, when and how, and include a careful look at all workplace elements - the environment, the equipment and the process. Particular attention should be given to equipment and items most likely to develop unsafe or unhealthy conditions because of stress, wear, impact, vibration, heat, corrosion, chemical reaction or misuse.
Workplace inspectors should look for biological (e.g. viruses and mould), chemical (e.g. cleaners, adhesives, paints), ergonomic (e.g. repetitive and forceful movements, and computer workstations), safety (e.g. inadequate machine guards), and physical hazards (e.g. noise, heat, and cold).
Information needed for the inspection report
The information needed to complete the inspection report is very detailed. Inspectors will need a diagram of the work area, a complete inventory of equipment and chemicals used, as well as checklists to help clarify inspection responsibilities and provide a record of inspection activities.
Conducting the inspection
Every workplace should have a schedule detailing when inspections will take place and in which areas, who conducts the inspections, and how detailed the inspections will be. The frequency of planned formal inspections may be set in your legislation. High hazard or high risk areas should receive extra attention.
While conducting inspections inspectors must wear personal protective equipment (PPE) where required, and should 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.
LOOK up, down, around and inside. Be methodical and thorough. Do not spoil the inspection with a "once-over-lightly" approach.
DESCRIBE clearly each hazard and its exact location in your rough notes. Allow "on-the-spot" recording of all findings before they are forgotten.
ASK questions, but do not unnecessarily disrupt work activities.
CONSIDER the static (stop position) and dynamic (in motion) conditions of the item you are inspecting. If a machine is shut down, consider postponing the inspection until it is functioning again.
DISCUSS as a group, "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.
PHOTOGRAPH a particular situation if you are unable to clearly describe or sketch it.
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 do not have knowledge to make an accurate judgement of safety.
DO NOT 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.
What’s in the final inspection report
To start, all unfinished items from the previous report should be carried over to the new report for follow up. The new report should specify the exact location of each hazard, a detailed description of the problem, the recommended corrective action, and a definite date for correction. A priority level (e.g. major, serious, minor) should be assigned to each hazard to indicate the urgency of the corrective action required.
Follow-up and monitoring
Once an inspection is completed, it’s not over. The health and safety committee should review the reports to recommend corrective action where needed and then review the progress of the recommendations. This will help in identifying trends to maintain an effective health and safety program.