Workplace inspections are walk through on all or certain selected workplace areas and locations of a particular workplace. These walkthroughs are meant to examine various materials, equipment, products, and processes to ensure potential hazards such as illnesses and injuries are eliminated from the workplace environment.
The scheduled inspections are necessary for controlling potential hazards through an elaborate system that ensures compliance of health and safety programs and the monitoring of standards have been adhered to comprehensively.
Who should conduct inspections?
An authorized body or organization puts in place acts of law that outline different responsibilities to the persons who are supposed to conduct inspections.
In using Ontario’s Occupational Health and Safety Act as a case study, the responsibility of conducting the workplace safety inspections on the workplace physical conditions is placed on a worker health and safety representative.
Therefore, an employer can meet his or her overall legal duties by implementing effective workplace inspections. The participative aspect of the Act can be met when the management assigns a few of its employees the duties of collaborating with the worker health and safety representatives in conducting a joint workplace inspection.
How regular should the Workplace Inspections be carried out?
The workplace inspections should be conducted at least once a month by the worker health and safety representative. If conducting the inspections on a monthly basis won’t be feasible, then the representative should inspect part of the physical conditions at least once a month and thus the entire facility at least once a year.
The joint inspection committee should draw an effective schedule for conducting the inspections. In workplaces of less than twenty employees, the employer and the worker health and safety representative should jointly conduct the inspection.
5 Points to consider when doing the safety inspection.
- The number of operations to be inspected.
- The right interval for conducting an inspection.
- The type of machinery to be inspected as determined by the legislation.
- The number of shifts to be inspected at the workplace because the nature of an activity may vary from one shift to another.
- Whenever a new process or equipment has been introduced into the workplace.
How to conduct workplace inspections.
Being able to successfully conduct workplace inspections depends on the available information about the workplace’s materials, equipment, workers and processes. The general system of management controls ought to be flexible enough to accommodate changes whenever necessary. Otherwise the inspections cannot be viable if recommendations from the findings won’t be implemented adequately.
The persons conducting the workplace inspections also need to have the required skills necessary for doing the walkthroughs. If the persons conducting the workplace inspections are not properly trained to handle the inspection tasks, they may not be able to identify the potential hazards accordingly.
The training should include but not limited to understanding: all potential hazards on various workplace equipment, the workplace layout so as to appropriately record the findings, the possible hazards that are associated with the workplace equipment and processes, and the existing industry controls and regulations.
The persons conducting the inspections should also know how to utilize vital pieces of information from the Ministry of Labor inspection records such as the results of a previous inspection exercise, data about previous accidents, and Maintenance reports.
Knowing how to use this information is very important to guiding the inspection representatives to compile a comprehensive report that has recommendations on how to make the workplace safer.
The information is also critical in helping the persons conducting the inspection create a checklist that will be used in the walkthrough. These checklists shouldn’t be used for every inspection exercise but rather be reviewed, revised and updated whenever necessary.
For instance, if an accident reveals a previously unsuspected potential hazard, it has to be included in the checklist for a future inspection. New processes or equipment into a workplace should also be accounted for in the inspection checklist.
Besides the hazardous materials, the checklist should contain a reference to the hazards associated with all equipment or machinery available at the workplace.
When conducting an inspection it’s very important to record observations and rank the findings according to importance. The identified hazards can be recorded in classifications of A, B, or C.
The class A hazards are major issues that have the potential of causing the largest losses such as loss of life, cause permanent injuries, loss of body part, substantial loss of structure and loss of materials or equipment. A condition or practice like an unguarded saw has the potential of causing a lot of damage at the workplace.
The Class B Hazards are practices or workplace conditions that can cause illnesses, disruptive workplace damages that are not very extensive or temporary disability to the workers. For instance, spilled oil on the aisle is capable of bringing losses that are not so extensive at a workplace.
Class C Hazards are practices that can only lead to minor injuries, illnesses or no-disruptive losses at the workplaces. The fact that a condition or practice can cause a minor damage to the property at the workplace doesn’t mean it should be ignored. For instance, workers handling solvents without using protective gear or gloves should be considered as a class C hazard.
It’s very important to ensure that an official reporting form is used in informing the management and all other responsible follow up teams at the workplace about these findings. If the responsible management controls is not made aware of the findings of an inspection, then the inspection can be considered null and void.
The official reporting form can also be used as the reference for spot inspections or other periodic checks by the management or supervisor of the workplace. The joint health and safety committee will also use the official reporting form in scheduling for future workplace inspections.
The form will come in handy in designing recommendations necessary for eliminating the potential workplace hazards and being in compliance with the industry regulations as set out by the relevant regulatory bodies.
A workplace supervisor can also conduct random checks and inspections and take subsequent corrective actions by using information recorded on the official reporting form.