For today's blog, we weclome guest blogger Richard Jessup. Richard (a.k.a. Safety Rich) is passionate about protecting workers and has extensive experience in occupational safety.You can learn more about Richard on his website.
Safety inspections do not save lives or injuries; they do give us the opportunity to identify and mitigate hazards. The primary impact inspections have on reducing incidents that cause injuries or fatalities is the actions taken to mitigate hazards. Inspections only identify the hazards. A good inspection report also recommends solutions to reduce those hazards.
Where work is being done, hazards will exist. People will fall, get hit, or be cut. A proper inspection identifies the hazards and mitigates the dangers to the worker. Awareness, attitude, safe behavior, and mental and physical fitness to work also contribute to the reduction of injuries, but those are more difficult to inspect. We focus here on the technical aspects of safety.
If you work for a company in a safety capacity, you will conduct what we will call regular inspections. You have the opportunity to observe work areas on a regular basis. You will get to know the workers, the facility, and the equipment. A full-time safety director can also focus on specific hazardous areas of the operation and observe improvements or changes.
A government agency is typically going to conduct a limited number of inspections. If the agency finds few violations or infractions, they may not conduct additional inspections within a short time. If, however, the inspector observes multiple violations, you can expect periodic follow-up visits.
Construction sites and general industry facilities encompass the majority of land-based locations. With few modifications, the inspection methods presented here apply to all work areas. Planning is universal. We shall discuss construction first, then talk about the differences you will find in general industry.
Follow Government Methods
Before we start inspecting, we plan our actions and gather important information. Our recommendations are that you follow the methods and procedures of government agencies for two reasons. First, since our primary goal is to reduce injuries, we acknowledge that government standards are usually the best way to accomplish that. Second, by emulating government inspectors, we can reduce the chances of incurring costly fines.
Many inspections by government agencies begin with reviewing written safety plans, injury logs, and training records. All of these are required by law, so this activity provides a great chance to focus on what the employer should be doing. Almost all injury investigations reveal a lack of planning and training, so completing this first step is making significant progress on our inspection.
Yogi Berra once said that if you do not plan where you are going, you are liable to wind up anywhere. We begin by planning. Decide what, in specific, you are looking for. Compile three lists:
- The 10 most frequently cited violations (from agency).
- Three violations that cause most injuries in industry (from industry association).
- An appropriate checklist (The checklist should be for the type of facility—general industry or construction—and should include the majority of existing or possible hazards.)
We are strong on the use of a checklist. Having and using a checklist ensures you will look at the important hazards and properly organizes the inspection. Design your inspection report in a format similar to the inspection checklist.
Many construction general contractors are now requiring Site Specific Safety Plans (SSSP), which contain the most prominent hazards faced by the workers on a specific site. Get a copy of the SSSP and note the hazards emphasized—this is a good place to start your inspection plan.
Armed with these plans and tools (checklist!), plan your route and begin the inspection. It is important to note that you should have a good understanding of safety standards, your facility, and the equipment you will observe. If you do not know what a piece of equipment is or what it does, get a worker to show you. Have them demonstrate the operation and tell you what the hazards are.
Start with Facility Overview
We conduct inspections focusing on several zones. Start with an overview of the facility. Where possible, have a supervisor or lead operator accompany you on the inspection. It is their job to implement changes to mitigate hazards.
Begin your inspection by looking over as much of the facility possible at one time. Look for three primary conditions:
- Noise levels—Is the noise level over 90dBA? Use a meter to measure; don’t guess.
- Air quality—Can you see the air? Is there dust, a haze, or mist? If so, what is causing it?
- Housekeeping—Is the facility as clean and orderly as possible during active work and production?
Then Get Specific
Once you have a general overview of conditions, walk through the facility observing small sections in concentric circles near, mid, and far from your position. Scan each zone multiple times looking for specific hazards. Stop periodically for a short time to concentrate on the small things you might miss in a scan while walking.
Observe the proper use of personal protective equipment (PPE). In many facilities the workers will don the PPE as soon as they see an inspector in the area. Note how many workers fail to use PPE or quickly put it on when they see you.
During the inspection, observe moving equipment such as cranes, scissor lifts, man lifts, forklifts, and other powered or manual gear.
This is a brief overview of conducting a walkthrough inspection. Knowledge of safety standards is critical. Use a checklist to be certain of not missing a hazard. Your inspection, report, and corrective actions can save lives and injuries, so they are worth doing right.