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Safety and Health Inspections
The hazard analysis process has a number of checkpoints. We start with the expert survey, perform change analysis, and have routine examinations of jobs, processes, and phases of work. The last formal checkpoint is the inspection which is designed to catch hazards missed at the other
stages. While an alert and competent workforce is the constant "real time" protection against accident and injury, inspections provide the final clear and concentrated focus on potential problems.
But let's be realistic. To gather a handful of people and tell them to walk the floors of the facility and "inspect" is virtually useless. The dentist who inspects your teeth at your semi-annual visit has years of training and usually knows your history and what to look for. So does the mechanic who inspects your car. With this in mind, here are some things to consider about the inspection process.
Always know why an inspection is being conducted! In other words, make sure the objectives of the activity are known and clear to everyone involved. It could be to:
- Meet OSHA or other legal obligations.
- Involve the team in safety.
- Identify areas of undue risk and high loss potential.
- Provide safety education.
- Check past training and skill development.
- Identify and develop positive safety attitudes.
- Suggest better job methods.
- Reinforce the positive efforts of people in the workplace!
When it comes to OSHA, keep this fact in mind. OSHA only recommends general workplace inspections; but, certain inspections are required. You should always check the standards to be sure you know what you must do in your facility. For example, the following items are generally necessary in most facilities; but this isn't a complete list by any means. Check the standards for others not listed here.
- Cranes and derricks
- Industrial slings
- Mechanical power presses and forging equipment
- Portable and fixed dry chemical extinguishers
- Powered industrial trucks
- Powered platforms (exterior use)
- Respiratory protection, including monthly inspections of emergency respirators
- Welding, cutting and brazing equipment
Many companies find it helpful to use checklists for their inspections to ensure that important items are not overlooked. If they're helpful, that's fine; but your people should really be trained to question anything which doesn't appear safe or proper and not limit themselves to what's on the checklist. One fairly comprehensive collection of checklists is contained in the OSHA Handbook for Small Businesses [339 KB PDF* 75 pages], Publication 2209. In addition, lots of vendors and organizations and books have inspection checklists they recommend or sell. If you find them helpful, buy. But, there are other approaches:
- Make your checklist based on:
- Past problems.
- Standards which apply to your industry.
- Specific standards of concern to you.
- Input from employees.
- Your company standard practices or safety rule book.
- Use inspections teams with broad safety skills.
- Include supervisors, mechanics, and operators with specific backgrounds.
- Have trainees make up checklists based on training completed.
- Work from job procedures or JSAs.
When you put your checklists together, avoid excessive detail, vague criteria, and forms which try to impress or overwhelm. Remember, these are all just tools to aid in training. Once your people are skilled inspectors, they won't need checklists and they probably won't let hazards sit until the inspection team cones by. Ideally, if your safety culture is strong, hazards will rarely crop up and most will be corrected on the spot by the first employee aware of the problem.
When it comes to documentation, you can write an inspection on notebook paper; but a standard format and approach helps keep thing organized. Here are some basic criteria for what to put on the report:
Have a form which tells who, what, when, why, and where. You'll need this information to get the correction process working.
- Make the form or report easy to follow and use. Managers and those taking action on the report should be able to see at a glance the status of their organization.
- Include recommendations so those taking corrective action have some guidance.
- Be helpful and encouraging. There is no need for an inspection to focus only on problems. If the team finds excellent conditions and positive safety behaviors, write it up! This is an opportunity for positive reinforcement!
- Rank findings and show status of correction so results can be tracked, plotted, and understood. For example, our sample form shows some coding at the bottom which tells at a glance how serious the findings are and the status of corrective action. You can also track the findings and corrections on a graph so it's easy for people to see how you're doing as the chart on this page shows.
- Be sure all items are corrected! Inspections lose punch and management credibility for safety takes a real dive fast if results aren't obvious every time!
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*These files are provided for downloading.