The most widely accepted way to identify hazards is to conduct safety inspections in the workplace.
You can set up processes and procedures to conduct self-audits, done by employees within the company.
In addition to the various ways to find and fix hazards, you should also use formal audits to evaluate the overall components of your safety program. Formal audits are conducted by objective third parties, such as an insurance carrier, OSHA consultant, corporate office or outside consultant.
Why are workplace inspections important?
Bottom line, inspections help prevent injuries and illnesses, and regular inspections are an important part of a company’s overall safety program.
Inspections allow you to:
» Listen to the concerns of your employees
» Gain further understanding of jobs and tasks
» Identify existing and potential hazards, determine their underlying cause and recommend corrective actions to take
» Implement the right hazard controls: personal protective equipment, engineering controls, policies, and procedures
Every inspection must examine who, what, where, when and how. Critically inspect items that are most likely to develop unsafe conditions due to stress, wear, impact, vibration, heat, corrosion, chemical reaction or misuse.
Using checklists can help clarify inspection responsibilities; however, checklists are by no means all-inclusive. Sample Scaffolding Self-Inspection Checklist.
If you’re doing self-audits, who should be involved?
Safety committee members are obvious choices. Consider including those with knowledge of regulations, procedures or potential hazards or who have experience with the work processes involved. Your team may include people such as engineers, maintenance personnel, health or safety professionals, supervisors and managers.
What should you be looking for?
Look for poor work practices. Common ones include:
» Using machinery or tools without authority
» Operating at unsafe speeds
» Removing guards or other safety devices
» Using defective tools or equipment or using in an unsafe manner
» Repairing or adjusting equipment that is in motion
» Failing to use or improperly using personal protective equipment
» Standing or working under suspended loads, scaffolds or open hatches
Once a workplace inspection is complete, determine the appropriate controls to put in place.
» Engineering. Eliminate hazards where possible, discontinue use of the product/machine/process or substitute one process for a safer process.
» Safe work practices. Identify safe operating procedures built into the workplace design (or equipment or process) that can minimize the hazard.
» Administrative. Identify what information, instruction or training could be offered to minimize the risk.
» PPE. Provide training and personal protective equipment to help mitigate/control hazards.