Safety inspection aims to protect workers and the environment by preventing workplace accidents. Apart from the regulatory inspection which is conducted by occupational safety and health administrations such as OSHA in the US, organizations should run different types of safety inspection that take systematic approaches to critically evaluate workplace elements such as the plant, procedures, products, and equipment. Their conditions must be safe for operations so any hazard is identified and corrective solutions are determined.
In this article, we will review different types of safety inspection to help HSE professionals and all workers get a full picture of the inspection process in the workplace that might involve them.
To perform a workplace safety inspection, 3 approaches can be used to facilitate the process. Either type can be utilized according to the individual conditions in the workplace but all of them together can maximize workplace safety:
As the name implies, a checklist is created for regular safety inspection of specific elements that facilitate the inspection process and prevent forgetting crucial steps. An inspection checklist creates a routine that has to be conducted at specific intervals which is a big advantage.
The checklists are often customized for each element to remind the details that have to be noticed. The order of the checklist is often based on the flow of the procedures or plant layout.
It is part of the documentation that records what was observed at a specific date that can include photos and additional notes. Recommended corrective actions are recorded for specific dates and the result of such actions are also written down.
However, a checklist might limit the scope of the inspection so previously unrecognized hazards go unnoticed. For example, psychological hazards such as excessive work shifts and violence might be neglected or ergonomic hazards such as forceful positions might go unnoticed. Chemical exposure control might not be comprehensive either. For this reason, investigating past accidents can help complete the checklist as is reviewing the OSHA regulations. Regular review and update are also essential to add new items to the checklist based on employee input, new equipment, and near misses.
There is also a problem with generic ready-to-use checklists that are available online. They are not tailored for the specific needs of each workplace. However, you can mix and match some of them to make your list.
Modern technology such as AI can be instrumental in solving inspection checklist problems and limitations.
Inspection can be as easy as the general knowledge of an HSE supervisor or worker that can remind them of the risks when walking through the workplace. A walkthrough is conducted on regular basis such as daily, weekly, and monthly. Documentation is necessary to record the findings and the corrective actions that are taken.
The daily walkthrough is done before a new shift begins or before every operation. In case of hazard identification, immediate actions are taken or notice is given to employees to avoid certain situations. PPE violation and poor housekeeping are critical risks that should be detected and corrected immediately.
A weekly walkthrough is to make sure current safety measures are effective and safe practices are used. Discrepancies are also recorded and tracked.
Monthly walkthrough inspections are conducted by safety committee members or HSE managers that tour the entire plant and report their observations and recommendations. Hygiene surveys for regulatory compliances are essential that include air monitoring, dining area, and health care as are equipment inspections for optimal condition and operation. This includes detectors, sensors, fire extinguishers, ventilation systems, emergency lighting, machine guards, and kitchen equipment. Industrial maintenance schedules are determined based on the findings. Product labeling and storage are also inspected to control the conditions and safety limits. Technical data sheets are essential for these purposes.
Then there are the semiannual and annual inspections to check the effectiveness of the entire health and safety system.
The advantage of general knowledge walkthroughs is that the inspection is not limited to a pre-defined checklist. However, it is dependent on the general knowledge of the inspector which might not be comprehensive or available in the memory at the time of inspection.
Risk mapping is one of the types of safety inspection involving supervisors and employees who are aware of the workplace and share their findings of safety risks in a meeting. This is the biggest advantage this method has.
A map is drawn based on the zones in the plant or steps of the procedures. Then color-coding and symbols are used to identify different hazards on the map. Additional notes are written for corrective actions and reminders.
This approach is perfect for people with natural visual tendencies that can see the whole picture of the workplace on one map but it might be difficult to track specifically for list-makers who have difficulty processing non-linear maps and symbols.
Types of safety inspection are conducted for regulatory compliance purposes and also to evaluate the effectiveness of the current health and safety measures. It could be one of the 3 common methods of inspection checklist, general knowledge walkthrough, and risk mapping, each of which has its advantages and disadvantages. The point is to customize the method for each workplace so no hazard goes unnoticed.
Documentation is a crucial part of safety inspection to make sure all identified risks about any workplace elements are recorded and the dates of recommending and administrating corrective actions are also remembered.
Types of safety inspection provide practical training for workers in safety awareness and also prove the employer’s commitment to health and safety practices. However, they could be further enhanced by an AI-based HSE system.