OSHA safety inspections help prevent incidents, injuries and illnesses in the workplace. One study found that within high-hazard industries random inspections reduced injury claims by 9.4% and saved 26% on workers compensation insurance costs.
Routine inspections also demonstrate that the organization cares about its employees and takes safety seriously. In this article, we will address all aspects of safety inspections from what they are to how to conduct them.
What are OSHA Safety Inspections?
Safety inspections are proactive on-site reviews of the workplace for potential hazards that could impact the health and safety of workers. They can address construction sites as well as manufacturing operations along with any other operation.
The objective of a safety inspection is to identify hazards, monitor OSHA standards and ensure that corrective actions are implemented. In fact, OHSA requires regular inspections of work sites, materials and equipment.
Purpose and Objectives
As noted, OSHA safety inspections are proven to help prevent incidents and injuries. They also demonstrate that the organization takes safety seriously and that it cares about its employees. Other objectives include:
- Identify hazards, both existing and potential.
- Determine underlying hazard causes.
- Gain insight into jobs and tasks across the organization.
- Listen to employee and supervisor concerns, which can point out hazards.
- Recommend actions to eliminate or reduce hazards.
- Review actions made in response to previous inspections and their results.
Using OSHA Inspection Checklists
Since inspections require a detailed review of every aspect of safety, they need to follow a rigorous written checklist that documents all that requires inspection. They also need to record everything they find. This, in turn, drives the actions required to correct safety issues. It also acts as a check and balance from previous audits.
Considerations for a Safety Checklist
The safety checklist needs to address the specific working environment, the equipment, the processes and the people. Our article on a simple safety audit checklist identified five considerations for a checklist.
- Employee Knowledge and Training. This aspect deals with safety training and employee awareness of safety documentation. It also addresses the employee complaint system and the disciplinary procedure. This all boils down to the safety aptitude of all employees.
- Safety Documentation. This is all about communicating safe work practices and procedures. It also sets company expectations. The starting points are an employee handbook, policy manual and emergency action plans.
- Equipment. Correct use of all tools and equipment is essential for any safety program. That starts with personal protective equipment (PPE), machine guarding, training and extends to fire extinguishers as well as clean-up materials.
- Chemical Usage. Hazardous and toxic chemicals in the workplace can be quite dangerous. Add to your checklist an inventory of all chemicals and ensure you have Safety Data Sheets on hand. Also, make sure you have the materials available for any spills and cleanup.
- Building and Grounds. This is where employees conduct their work. It needs proper lighting, exit signs, first aid kits, trip hazards eliminated, safe stairways, and more.
You can find safety inspection checklist examples online. Your OECS associate can develop a site-specific checklist, and conduct an assessment to optimize workplace safety. One glance and you’ll see that they can be quite detailed.
Examples of the top-level categories for OSHA safety inspections may include general-all areas, general-shop areas, exits/corridors, electrical, emergency equipment, storage-general, storage-fire protection, storage-compressed gas cylinders, personal protective equipment, railings/elevated work areas, ladders, forklifts, fire protection, training, computer rooms and grounds. As you can tell, this is a rigorous process that touches everything about workplace safety.
All too often the results of an OSHA safety inspection may only be communicated to management or not communicated at all. The inspection should be communicated to everyone within the company through the company’s safety committee, supervisor meetings, management meetings and then to all employees.
The company needs to share the results with all employees. This cements the leadership commitment. They can also work with everyone on the improvements needed. Not only that but they can take the time to note and celebrate successes that occur from one inspection to another.
Developing an Implementation Plan
A safety inspection to help meet OSHA compliance is only as good as the follow-on implementation plan developed to correct the hazards identified. As soon as the results of the inspection have been provided, the process needs to begin on the development of the corrective actions and how the plan will be carried out to completion.
They will work together with company leadership to match funding and effort with the most critical issues identified. In this way, they can set goals for completion that match company expectations. Communicating both the results and the action plan will also hold employees accountable for making it happen while demonstrating company support and commitment.
D-I-Y or Third Party?
There’s a lot to be said for conducting these safety inspections yourself. It’s all part of leading the way to safety for your organization. But it’s also wise to bring in outside organizations to provide both a fresh perspective and extensive professional experience. Perhaps there’s a mix of do-it-yourself and third party that would work well for your company. When conducting safety audits and inspections, I often hear “I didn’t know that.”
Learn More About OSHA Safety Inspections
Interested in learning more about safety inspections, checklists and audits to meet OSHA compliance? See our free webinar, “Best Practices for Workplace Safety Inspections”. Click here to register.
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