The Checker Blog

How to Make a Comprehensive Safety Program Work

Posted by Shawn Macpherson on Fri, Jan 11, 2019 @ 01:30 PM

A comprehensive safety program with regular inspections can keep personnel safe and provide many ancillary benefits.

When talking about workplace safety, most businesses think they’re at least above average. But if they were to look at the details and how equipment operates in the field on a day-to-day basis, the reality may prove to be somewhat different

Most managers are aware that safety programs help minimize work-related injuries or sudden equipment failures, as well as the inherent costs that come attached to these issues. But some are still unaware of the short-term, bottom-line benefits of safety. 

Workers may be inclined to skip on safety procedures so they can finish their work faster. Some managers may turn a blind eye to this because it's easy to take safety for granted when accidents aren't happening.

If work-related accidents (even small ones) are a fairly common occurrence, or the equipment tends to break unexpectedly, you need a comprehensive safety program. 

Key Components of a Comprehensive Safety Program

Regular safety inspections and audits

The foundation of every safety program lies with regular inspections and audits. These forms of data collection help companies detect any problems before they can result in an accident or malfunction.

Inspection tools

Personnel need to be supplied with the resources to conduct audits and inspections accurately and efficiently. For example, The Checker Software allows safety inspectors to identify trends or problems that may require additional safety measures. 

Training

Regular safety audits and inspections will bring to light any unsafe activity by personnel. You can use this information for training purposes, focusing on areas that may need improvement. 

Additional Benefits of Safety

Maintenance

Analyzing audit and inspection data will reveal long-term patterns about the likelihood of when assets will break down. You can use this information to predict wear and develop preventive maintenance strategies to counteract the issues. 

Business Processes

Audits and inspections will also point to issues causing assets to fail prematurely. For example, if a piece of equipment breaks down every time within the next month after using it for a specific operation, it's safe to conclude that personnel might be using that equipment wrong when performing that function. There could, of course, be other causes of the problem but at least you were made aware of the correlation. 

Takeaway

There isn't a one-size-fits-all approach to a comprehensive safety program. Each company needs to develop its program based on its individual needs. But in every case, a tool such as The Checker Software can serve as the foundation for your safety program. For more information, contact us directly.

Topics: audit/inspection software, safety audits, equipment maintenance, inspection software, workplace safety, safety management

Five Ways to Make Your Workplace Safer

Posted by Shawn Macpherson on Thu, Dec 27, 2018 @ 08:30 AM

really good resuable with books with titles

Never undervalue workplace safety. A proactive approach to safety has many benefits and many risks and liabilities if you don't. A safety mindset can increase production, reduce costs, lower the risk of accidents, boost morale, and streamline operations. On the other side, however, if you decide to forsake workplace safety in favor of short-term profits, you may end up losing both.   

These five elements of a safe work environment are easily achievable by both big and small business.

Employee Training

Safety policies and procedures aren’t enough to ensure a safe workspace. The employer alone can’t guarantee workplace safety. Everyone in the organization should be trained in the importance of safety and their role in maintaining a safe workplace.

Nobody wants to get hurt or see their colleagues get hurt. But people generally have the impression that work-related accidents only happen in other places, to other people. This thinking leads to complacency, and that's precisely when accidents happen. Good training can  impart the safety attitude necessary to guard against this complacency.

Safety in Stages

Workplace safety almost always happens in stages. Usually employers originate the idea of protection. It’s what's known as the adoption stage. Once ownership and management have adopted a safety mindset, that mindset will spread throughout the company. but too often employees are acting safely simply because they’re instructed to.  what they're instructed to. This stage can’t go on indefinitely.

Next comes the engagement stage, when everyone genuinely buys in. It becomes part of the culture—let’s keep each other safe.

Available Resources

It costs money to implement and uphold safety. That’s the exact reason why some businesses decide to cut corners or renounce on safety altogether. Nevertheless, by doing so, all of these businesses—by not investing in safety—inevitably end up paying more in the long term than what they managed to save in the short term.

Smart organizations provide the resources to be safe.

Effective Response to Reported Hazards

Hazards in the workplace range from seemingly simple hazards (poor housekeeping, working in confined spaces, etc.) up to dangerous chemicals, exposed electrical wiring, and other such extremely dangerous (potentially fatal) issues.

Even if identified, most of these hazards go unfixed over prolonged periods, making them increasingly dangerous. That’s why you need audit/inspection software such as The Checker Software, which instantly emails action items to the people who need to be involved in remedying the hazard.

Leadership by Example

The workplace won’t be safe if the organization’s leaders “talk the talk but don’t walk the walk.”  It’s not wearing a hardhat while touring a site. It’s budgeting and effectively incentivizing. It’s truly valuing safety.

When leaders make it clear that safety matters immensely—and they back it up with action and budget funding—the cost-saving, life-saving benefits of investments in safety are fully realized.

Takeaway

Get on the right track of developing a safety-oriented culture where everyone stands to gain. For more information on how to increase the safety of your business, visit our website or contact us directly. 

Topics: audit/inspection software, safety management, safety awareness, workplace safety, safety audits

Don't Wait For Problems - Solve Them!

Posted by Shawn Macpherson on Tue, Apr 03, 2018 @ 10:02 AM

 

safety-shoes“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” may be a wise saying in many cases. But not if it’s taken to mean, “If it ain’t broke, don’t do anything to it.”

Reactive maintenance—waiting for vehicles or equipment to break down before giving them maintenance attention—is clearly not the smart strategy. The short-term cost of providing routine, proactive preventive maintenance is almost always negligible compared to the costs of an on-the-job breakdown.

Just think about the last major breakdown your company had. Did you have any of these costs associated with it:

  • a more-expensive repair than if the problem had been detected earlier?
  • damage that could have been prevented?
  • production downtime?
  • overtime for repair or catching operations up to schedule?
  • penalties for falling behind schedule?
  • replacement equipment?
  • lost opportunity for other work?

Wouldn’t it have been far less expensive if you had detected the problem that caused the breakdown before the equipment broke down?

And preventive maintenance has other benefits in addition to minimizing the disruptions of breakdowns. Preventive maintenance also helps reduce costs by:

  • extending the useful life of assets
  • increasing energy efficiency
  • minimizing the risk of non-compliance with health and safety regulations
  • enabling lower-cost, bulk procurement of spare parts in advance
  • allowing for the alignment of scheduled maintenance with downtime and slower production periods.

If you do an honest assessment of your maintenance program and determine it’s mostly reactive, the good news is that you have an ideal opportunity to significantly improve your business.

 

The Role of Inspections

As you seek to lower maintenance costs with a preventive strategy, it’s important to understand that preventive maintenance involves more than the maintenance department. Preventive maintenance requires company-wide policies and processes that identify issues before they escalate into more-costly problems.

Audits and inspections are a primary component of this proactive approach. Not only do they identify defects earlier than waiting for a breakdown, they provide insight into the cause of recurring problems so they can be corrected (e.g., if defects repeatedly occur after a specific operation, you can look to determine if there’s a way to improve the operation to prevent the defects from occurring).  

Inspection checklists are a tool that empowers all personnel responsible for inspecting assets to play a vital role in preventive maintenance. Checklists such as those in The Checker inspection books or The Checker Software guide personnel as they conduct inspections, ensuring that they check everything that needs to be inspected. All defects will be discovered early, when they can be addressed less expensively.

The Role of Management

Management support of preventive maintenance is essential for the strategy to work. Preventive policies and procedures must be followed, and without management support that adherence becomes far less likely. For example, if personnel aren’t mandated to correctly complete inspection checklists, there’s a good chance they won’t.

Unfortunately, management often views maintenance as a cost—not as an opportunity to cut costs. This view leads to short-sighted decisions such as cutting the current maintenance budget rather than seeking a solution to permanently lower maintenance costs.

On the other hand, management that understands the long-term cost savings of preventive maintenance can give their company a meaningful competitive advantage over companies still in a reactive mode.

Takeaway

Reactive maintenance results in costs that could be avoided. Preventive maintenance tools such as inspection checklists help a company eliminate these costs and run a more-efficient maintenance program.

Topics: safety audits, inspections and profitability, workplace safety, OSHA, audit software

If an Inspection Needs to Be Done, Do It!

Posted by Shawn Macpherson on Mon, Mar 26, 2018 @ 03:06 PM

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Audits and inspections keep people safe and help businesses run more efficiently, and so we want to encourage our customers to do more of them … not less.

That’s why we when we sell The Checker Software audit/inspection checklists, we don’t charge in the traditional way—per checklist used. This pricing model disincentives organizations from doing all the inspections they should be doing. That’s the last thing we want to do.

Instead, with The Checker Software, you can use as many of our checklists as you need, at no extra cost for each checklist (up to a maximum limit that makes sense for your business).

The cost of checklists is minimal compared with the benefits derived, but nonetheless, we don’t want anyone to cut back on audits and inspections to save money in the short-term. Our goal is to help our customers succeed, so we want them to do being conducting all the audits and inspections they need to be.

With The Checker Software, you can also add as many users as required, with no extra cost per user. If someone needs access, they can have it without any concern about extra spend.

We believe this approach to pricing is consistent with our mission to promote the use of audits and inspections to increase safety, reduce risk, lower insurance premiums, lower maintenance costs, and provide multiple other business benefits.

Takeaway

With The Checker Software, you never have to worry about cost when deciding whether to conduct an audit or inspection that should be done.

Topics: safety audits, inspections and profitability, workplace safety, OSHA, audit software

Safety Regulators Aren’t Playing Around About Workplace Safety

Posted by Shawn Macpherson on Mon, Mar 12, 2018 @ 12:05 PM

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How serious is workplace safety becoming? 

Well, it’s always been serious, because human lives and welfares are at stake. But now it’s becoming an increasingly serious business risk. 

Starting just a few months ago (Dec. 14, 2017), Ontario increased the maximum fines for failing to meet workplace health and standards from $500,000 to $1.5 million for corporations. (For individuals and unincorporated businesses, the increase was from $25,000 to $100,000.) 

In Ontario, any fine issued—including Ministry of Labour penalties—is also accompanied by a Victim of Crime surcharge, which is 25 percent of any fine more than $1,000. So, the $ 1.5 million maximum corporate fine would actually be $1.875 million. 

That’s serious money! 

Realistically, fines for an offence under Ontario’s Occupational Health and Safety Act (or under U.S. OSHA) rarely rise to the maximum amount, but the point is made with the increase. The Ontario Ministry of Labour apparently believes fines haven’t been stiff enough.  

So, it’s a fair assumption that all fines will increase, regardless of the severity of the offense. 

The Ministry of Labour has already been active in enforcing safety—conducting more than 79,800 visits to 34,700 workplaces in 2016-17, issuing more than 118,000 orders due to non-compliance. In 2016, the courts imposed more than $11 million in fines, and many businesses aren’t looking forward to the prospect of even higher fines. 

However, Ontario’s action, while it could initially be seen as a threat, is actually good news for businesses that already understand the business value of safety and have been actively seeking to gain it. The risk of higher fines is a competitive disadvantage for their competitors lagging in safety. 

It’s heartening to see the Ministry of Labour take a meaningful step to reinforce the importance of keeping workers and the public safe. 

Our hope is that all companies take notice. Those that do will improve not just safety but their entire business. Those that don’t should be worried because regulators seem resolute in increasing the cost of non-compliance. 

A proven way to improve workplace safety and minimize the risk of regulatory fines is to routinely conduct safety audits and inspections using checklists. The Checker inspection checklist books can be used to guide and document proper audits and inspections—a strong step toward gaining the many business benefits of safety, including compliance. The Checker Software can do the same while also providing the tools to develop a comprehensive audit/inspection program that extracts all the available value from audits and inspections. 

Topics: safety audits, legal compliance, inspections and profitability, workplace safety, OSHA

A $50 book could save you $50,000

Posted by Shawn Macpherson on Wed, Feb 21, 2018 @ 09:37 AM

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We were recently approached by a municipality looking for inspection checklist books. Something bad had happened, and now they were focusing on inspections.

They had a front-end loader they used at a dump site. The loader never left that site, and it was never touched by  maintenance. And no one was inspecting it to see if it needed to be! They weren’t even checking its fluid levels on a regular basis.

Not surprisingly, the fluid levels fell too low, and the loader’s engine overheated, causing serious damage to the engine.

After they got the $50,000 repair bill, they couldn’t believe they had been so negligent as to not check the fluid levels. “What were we thinking,” they bemoaned to us.

Unfortunately, stories like that are common. In an effort to save a little money and time in the short-term, organizations neglect to do audits and inspections that could prevent large losses in the future.

This organization wanted to make sure nothing like the loader debacle ever occurred again, and they had correctly decided that using inspection checklists would be an important step in maturing their inspection policies and procedures.

Inspection checklists aren’t a magic solution that will ensure necessary audits and inspections are done. If they’re not used, they’re obviously not going to help.

However, with checklist-usage requirements in place, checklists are a low-cost tool to support any effort to improve audit and inspection policies. They can be used by personnel to make sure they check everything that needs to be checked while documenting the inspections at the same time.

The Checker inspection checklist books average only about $50 (with volume pricing available to lower the cost even more). And we have more than 100  different books—each one created for a specific type of asset. These are not the generic checklists you may have seen (e.g., a vehicle inspection checklist that could be for a car, truck, or off-road vehicle). Our checklists have all the detail necessary to guide proper inspections.

Each book contains 150 inspection checklists, or enough to last for at least half a year in a single-shift operation. That’s a lot of inspection support for not a lot of money.

Spending $50 for a half-year’s worth of protection against the costs of asset failure (not to mention the costs of regulatory non-compliance) is a lot better than choking on a $50,000 bill!

Takeaway

Small spending on audit/inspection tools such as The Checker inspection checklist books (or The Checker Software via the cloud) is good business because the costs of insufficient inspecting can be dramatically high—many, many multiples of the small amount it costs to improve your inspecting.

Topics: safety audits, legal compliance, vehicle safety, equipment maintenance

If a Workplace Accident Occurs, Do You Have a Defensible Position?

Posted by Shawn Macpherson on Mon, Feb 12, 2018 @ 08:30 AM

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We often talk about “being compliant” because our audit/inspection software and inspection checklist books are designed to keep you compliant with applicable health and safety regulations.

However, we’re aware that achieving “100 percent” compliance is a considerable, perhaps impossible, challenge. Even if you’re using tools like The Checker and are providing proper training and incentivization for a strong health and safety program, there’s always the possibility of human error, of someone accidentally doing something that’s against regulations. And sometimes personnel just don’t do what they’re supposed to do.

That’s why (while perfect compliance is always the goal), it’s important to value the concept of having a “defensible position” if anything goes wrong. In general (not legally specific) terms, what this means is that you can demonstrate that you’ve made a good faith effort to do everything practical to keep your personnel and the public safe.

Of course, there are very precise requirements from regulatory agencies like OSHA, and if you haven’t met one of these requirements when you’re inspected—or when an accident occurs—you are liable to substantial fines. But the amount of these fines (and sometimes whether you get a warning or a fine) is clearly influenced by your defensible position—how well you’re able to prove that your company has done its best to keep the workplace safe and healthy and that the infraction wasn’t due to organizational negligence.

This defensible position is also critical if your company ends up in court, fighting charges or lawsuits claiming negligence.

The good news is that compliance solutions have benefits beyond creating a defensible position. First and most importantly, striving for compliance helps keep people safe. For example, auditing or inspecting assets with The Checker satisfies regulatory requirements and provides ready documentation of compliance, but also keeps unsafe equipment from being used and hurting people.

And more often that not, compliance solutions lead to process and quality improvements that benefit the bottom line. Think about the value of discovering a defect that needs immediate correction to avoid a productivtity-sapping breakage during the next shift. Or consider how inspection results can be used to identify the durability of a particular brand of asset. In ways like this, and many others, compliance correlates with efficiency.

So, never stop pursuing compliance but realize that even if you never achieve 100 percent compliance, your pursuit will result in a defensible position that can save major dollars. And understand that the pursuit will keep your personnel and the public safer, while likely increasing profitability.

Takeaway

You can never ensure perfect compliance, but with compliance tools like The Checker you can ensure that you’re doing all you can to be compliant, have a defensible position in case you’re accused of negligence, and are reaping the many associated benefits of compliance efforts.

Topics: inspection software, audit software, safety audits, legal compliance

Don't forget about maintenance when implementing audit and inspection software.

Posted by Shawn Macpherson on Thu, Nov 03, 2016 @ 01:26 PM

 

Caution-1.pngImplementing inspection and audit software impacts many departments in your business. Most organizations remember to consult with operators, safety and management but commonly overlook maintenance.

 Discovering deficiencies means your process works

A typical inspection software implementation outcome is finding more deficiencies. This is a good thing because it means your process works and you are actually discovering the kinds of things you intend to prevent. When audit and inspection software has just been implemented, we see organizations often find many deficiencies; far more than they have in the past and likely far more than they will in the future.

 The hump in the snake

This is the "hump in the snake" effect. As your team sees what gets caught in the new inspection program, both specific and systemic issues, they can work to reduce those. The unintended consequence of all this is that each deficiency needs to be remediated and “the hump” can create a surge of new work orders. If maintenance is not aware that “the hump" is coming, it is inevitable they will be under-resourced and unprepared.

 Make maintenance part of the core team

By including maintenance as part of the project implementation team they can contribute to both ensuring success in post-implementation phases but also in providing the maintenance perspective on how audits and inspections are conducted.

 When maintenance sees the big picture and understands how “the hump” will be a temporary state they can help ensure it is managed effectively. By being onboard, maintenance can help demonstrate the success of the new program.

 Closing the loop is essential

Performing audits and inspections simply for the sake of doing them it not the goal, rather you want to genuinely improve your work environments, demonstrate compliance and ensure the safety of workers. To do this, organizations need to identify deficiencies, address the cause and remediate the issues. This closed loop requires maintenance’s help. 

 The bottom line

To ensure you have the most successful implementation, it is critical you consider how a more efficient and effective process will affect everyone who is part of the audit and inspection process.

Image courtesy of Mrs. McNiffle

Topics: why inspect?, audit software, inspection software, safety audits

The Right Tools for the Job

Posted by Shawn Macpherson on Fri, Oct 21, 2016 @ 09:06 AM

 

Tools.pngAlmost every enterprise uses large bundled software suites for managing business processes. Their broad feature set makes them essential for day-to-day operations but they are not designed nor intended to meet the needs of every use case.

 

Auditing is a Specialized Activity

Today’s regulatory environment and growing demand for compliance means enterprises are:

  • conducting more audits
  • auditing more processes
  • demanding audit deficiencies be remediated
  • reporting on the entire process

While many safety, maintenance and asset management software packages include audit and inspection functionality they are not capable of meeting these demands without a great deal of customization. Audits and inspections are so critical to business operations that they justify specialized software.

Focused, Purpose Built and Flexible

Specialized software, like The Checker, has the luxury of focusing on a single business process area and offering more comprehensive functionality and a user experience that is more efficient and effective than the general-purpose suite.

Audit and inspection software is purpose built to help you conduct audits and inspections at the very highest level. Features such as a library for common inspections, notifications and alerts, auto-forwarding completed inspections to supervisors and built in reporting are ready for you to use and instantly make your audit program better.

In addition, specialized audit and inspection software is flexible enough to allow you to maintain or optimize your processes rather than dictate a process based on limited functionality. You want your software to align with how you work and not the other way around.

Look to the Cloud

Never before has the case for best of breed applications been more compelling. The need for specialized software is clear and software-as-a-service applications like The Checker make it financially and operationally viable for any company to pick the world’s best application for every audit and inspection business case.

The Bottom Line

Using software to improve your audit and inspection program doesn’t need to be an either or proposition. Large bundled software suites will continue to be an important part of business operations and specialized software applications like The Checker can supplement while ensuring the demands of regulators and compliance are met. 

Image courtesy of Julien Dumont

Topics: why inspect?, audit software, inspection software, safety audits

Six Best Practices for Auditing and Inspecting

Posted by Shawn Macpherson on Thu, Mar 24, 2016 @ 02:00 PM

Regardless of your organization’s size or the industry you’re in, you can maximize the value of your audits and inspections by following these best practices.

  1. Establish firm audit/inspection policies and procedures in writing. Personnel should have no question about what needs to be inspected, how frequently inspections should be conducted, or how those inspections should be conducted. Verbal guidance is great (and necessary), but written guidelines provide consistency, clarity, and accountability. Developing written policies and procedures also forces an organization to examine its audit/inspection processes, asking important questions such as “Are we inspecting everything we need to?” and “When we inspect, are we doing a thorough-enough inspection to achieve our goals?”
  1. Adequately train all personnel. Once you’ve developed written policies and procedures, personnel have to learn them. This requires more than simply handing out a printout or posting Effective audit and inspection programs require robust training.the guidelines on a bulletin board. To make sure your policies and procedures are well-understood and always top of mind, you need a robust training program that ingrains them in the minds of personnel before they begin doing a job that requires auditing or inspecting.
  1. Use checklists to ensure audits and inspections are done correctly. Even with excellent training, personnel need a checklist of all items to check for whatever is being inspected, whether it be equipment, facilities, worksites, or processes. Properly structured checklists, such as The Checker, list items in the logical order they will be inspected, allowing personnel to simply go through the checklist without having to remember each item. Checklists also hold personnel and organizations accountable by documenting what they’ve inspected—documentation that also can be used to demonstrate regulatory compliance.
  1. Constantly reinforce the policies and procedures. Initial training isn’t enough. People have a tendency to forget, become complacent, or begin taking “shortcuts.” This tendency is particularly strong in organizations that don’t make it clear, on an ongoing basis, how important it is to do audits and inspections as prescribed by your policies and procedures. You can provide this reinforcement of the initial training with periodic retraining. It’s also vital to provide meaningful rewards for personnel who follow the policies and procedures, as well as to enforce negative consequences when the guidelines aren’t followed.
  1. “Audit the auditors.” In organizations that have best-of-class audit/inspection programs, there are checks at all organizational levels to ensure that policies and procedures are being followed. A way to think of this is that the audit/inspection program itself needs to be inspected on a continual basis. Everyone, at all levels, should be answerable to someone else.
  1. Proactively use audit/inspection results to make better business decisions. Audits and inspections should be about more than compliance to internal standards and external regulations. To truly maximize the value of audits and inspections, you can’t waste the valuable data generated by the results. This data can be used in numerous ways, such as helping to develop preventive maintenance schedules, predicting downtime, and guiding procurement decisions. Inspection software (e.g., The Checker Software) can be used to help aggregate and make sense of this data.

 

Takeaway

You can improve the efficiency and effectiveness of your audits and inspections by developing firm policies and procedures, training and retraining personnel, using checklists, holding everyone accountable, and using results to make better business decisions.

Topics: inspection checklists, inspection basics, inspection best practices, safety audits