Why workplace Inspection is Important
It is essential for all organizations, institutions, companies and all other institutions of work to regularly carryout workplace inspection (Johnstone, 2011). This is crucial because these inspections help to prevent accidents and other injuries that might have occurred to the people around the place at any given time. Illnesses and other potential or actual hazards can be prevented if the dangers can be detected and corrected during inspection (Dikshith, 2013). The core role of inspecting the surrounding of workers and where they carry out their duties at work is to provide a safe environment, which is healthy from all kinds of risks. The inspection decreases chances of workers getting injured and hurt, and instead increases their morale to work in a safer environment. This task of inspecting the workplace plays a key role in trusting between the employers and their workers (Hopwood, 2006).
It is important for the management of any organization to carry out an inspection of the workplace because the results of these inspections are recorded when identified, and this helps in planning on taking action and determining the best actions to prevent any injury or illness from the harmful situation (Collins, 2001). These activities of monitoring and reporting the inspection can be done by joint efforts from the occupational health and safety committee. These programs demand that the workplace gets inspected on a regular basis so that the workers can be saved from any impending risks.
Purpose of Inspection
When the inspections in a workplace are carried out regularly, they enable the management and the health and safety committee to listen to the issues and concerns raised by the employees. Sometimes the employees may have issues to raise, but the general supervisors may shun their concerns, claiming they are not serious to worry about. The management may also say that they will conduct the necessary action at a certain time of the year so that not to interfere with the normal operations of the organization (Hopwood, 2006). For instance, when the remedy to an impending danger involve demolishing a building and renovating or building a new structure, the management may decide to hold the action for a period of time until certain projects are over if they think the concern is not too risky.
Inspecting a workplace helps the inspector gain further knowledge concerning the nature of the job and the tasks. This is important because it helps them to familiarize with situations so they would identify any impending risk during their inspection programs in the future. In addition, the inspection programs help the health and safety committee to identify and record the present and prospective hazard (Collins, 2001). When identification is done, recording, and reporting are the next steps taken, so that action is taken to save the lives of the workers and evade destruction of other properties.
Results obtained from the inspection programs are crucial because information on how to monitor and control hazards is presented to the workers and other personnel in the environment. People are provided with, and encouraged to use protective equipments to avoid any looming danger (Dikshith, 2013). In addition, engineering control is carried out to ensure that the hazards do not cause any harm to the workers. Policies and procedures can also be implemented and the workers advised on how to adhere to them, to avoid injuries from accidental hazards on the premises. When all the inspectors are done, the committee is able to recommend the proper action to be taken by the management and the general workers as well (Hopwood, 2006).
How to examine for inspections
Every inspection is planned and the areas to be covered revolve around the people (who), place/location (where), time (when), what and how. These factors are also crucial in providing accurate information and in planning for the most effective actions to take. Items in the workplace are examined so closely, especially those likely to develop unsafe and unhealthy conditions, likely to arise in time because of situations such as misuse, impact, chemical reaction, stress, heat, wear corrosion or vibration (Collins, 2001). The entire place of work should be inspected during the normal routines of the program to ensure that no chances are taken that can pose a danger to the workers. These programs should be extended even to areas that are rarely active and where no work is carried out regularly, such as locker rooms, parking lots, office storage, and rest areas.
- When inspecting a workplace, keen attention should be focused on the presence of any immediate danger.
- All the risky places that cannot receive immediate repair should be locked and access denied to the workers until the fault is corrected.
- Inspectors should not operate on any equipment, especially if they do not have knowledge of how to operate the equipment.
- The operator should be asked for demonstrations on how to repair the faulty equipment.
- While taking the records, all hazards should be noted in correspondent to their location in the inspector’s rough notes.
- The inspector should ask necessary questions without disrupting the process for effective results.
- If any equipment is not operating because it was shut down in a previous inspection, the inspector should postpone the exercise until the equipment operates again.
- The inspectors should have group discussions over the concerns raised during the inspection process and reach a decision on what appropriate actions to take.
- A thorough monitoring of equipments should be applied in the process to effectively detect a hazard and identify a corrective action.
- Sketches and photographs should be taken in cases that the inspector cannot clearly describe a situation (Johnstone, 2011).
The elements to focus on in a workplace during the inspection routines include the environment, the equipments inside and outside the buildings in the working environment and the whole process. The hazards that are present in the environment include poor ventilation, poor lighting system, vibration, temperature, and noise. The environment, therefore, should be inspected regularly to ensure these hazards are not present and in cases they are, the proper actions are taken to reduce the risks of the workers and improve their morale. Equipments in the workplace include the materials, apparatuses, and tools that are used to come up with a product or a service. These equipments are liable to get damaged and end up causing danger to the workers (Hopwood, 2006). They are bound to get damaged because of factors such as tear, corrosion, and misuse by the worker, among others. The process in the workplace involves how the employees intermingle with other rudiments in the workplace during a progression of operations (Collins, 2001). These operations need to be inspected so that the appropriate action, such as further training of the employees unable to operate with the available materials is taken.
Types of Hazards likely to Manifest in a Workplace
In a working environment, depending on the nature of the work the organization deals in, there are several hazards that should be looked for during an inspection routine. In safety hazards, the dangers are posed from conditions such as unsafe work practices by the workers or other people in the organization such as the management. Other factors such as inadequate machine guard can be very risky because the machines are mostly programmed to perform tasks and when not properly guarded, they can cause severe injuries to employees. These machines also require regular servicing to avoid injuries to the workers. Unsafe workplace conditions such as open electricity wires and flammable substances can be very dangerous too, and only regular and thorough inspection can be crucial in detecting them (Collins, 2001).
Biological hazards are mostly caused by parasites, bacteria, viruses and fungi organisms. These organisms cause diseases of the workers as well as spread any contagious disease from a person in the environment to other workers. These organisms should be inspected to ensure that the place is hygienic and safe for workers to operate. In addition, medical help can be offered in the workplace in these biological hazards are identified during the inspection program. Workplaces are also at risk of chemical hazards, which are caused by mist, gas, fume, vapor, solid, dust, and liquid (Dikshith, 2013). These chemical hazards may cause corrosion, wear and tear to other equipments that may hurt the employees.
Ergonomical hazards are caused by the psychological, anatomical, and physiological demands posed on the workers during their working periods. These demands may arise from repetitive and forceful movements caused by the processes and apparatus used. Demands from vibrations present in the workplace cause these ergonomic hazards such as stress (Collins, 2001). Extreme temperatures such as too hot or extremely cold condition affect the workers negatively. Some work station may be built in poor designs causing the workers to work in awkward postures, causing body pains such as leg and back aches. Awkward positions may arise because of improper work methods, poor tools and equipments that the employers are forced to use, resulting to extreme effects. The employees may also get hurt from physical hazard that are posed by factors such as heat, pressure, noise, radiation, vibration, electricity energy, cold and unfavorable weather conditions. All these hazards should be identified and proper measures put in place so that the safety of the workers is improved and their morale to work increased so that the positive effects can be felt in production outcome (Collins, 2001).
Important Information on Inspection Report
During inspection, it is important to use the relevant equipments to come up with accurate results (Johnstone, 2011). This process can start from determining what kinds of machinery or equipments are available in the workplace. When in the inspection process, the technical safety date sheets should be reviewed and the manufacturers’ safety manuals guide followed to avoid injuries and other poor results that may jeopardize the outcome of the exercise. Work area records are also very significant because they give the inspectors a familiarity with the injury and illness potential of the materials (Hopwood, 2006).
Diagram of Area
The inspector should use drawn layout of the workplace, stairs, alarms, fire exists, and other locations illustrated and divide the workplace into sections based on the processes carried out (Hopwood, 2006). The activities in the workplace should be visualized and movement of equipment and workers shown.
Sample diagram of an area of a workplace (Source: Labour Program)
Inspectors should determine what chemical materials are present and use in the workplace environment and whether data concerning material safety is available (Dikshith, 2013). The inspectors should also find out whether the actual sources are effectively controlled.
These are necessary to clarify inspection duties, control inspection processes, and present a report of the findings of the inspection process.
Sample of a check sheet (Source: Labour Program)
Inspection records are significant because they help in decision making from the previous incidents identified. They also identify the areas frequently inspected and those not visited. They draw concentration to budding hazards in the workplace (Johnstone, 2011).
Inspectors’ Preferred Skills
Health and safety committee members are the obvious choice to carry out inspections in the workplace environment (Eaton, 2000). These are the most preferred, especially if they have gone through training concerning inspection and they have received certification. There are other criteria that management chooses to consider while selecting personnel to carry out inspections in their workplace. These include personnel with knowledge of regulation and procedures used to carry out inspections. The personnel with knowledge concerning potential hazards in the workplace are also considered to be effective in their work. While choosing the people to inspect a workplace, those people who have gained enough experience in the procedures involved are also considered (Johnstone, 2011).
During inspections, other personnel such as engineers, health and safety professors, maintenance personnel, managers, supervisors, or occupational hygienists may be called to be part of the inspecting team, to help with explanations of equipments or processes. Large workplaces can have different teams inspecting different areas because it is important to have the entire place inspected at once during all the routines (Eaton, 2000).
It is sometimes important to have supervisors in the inspection team because they have prior familiarity with the environment, equipment and the workers. The work of supervisors involves taking necessary action to prevent accident and injury to the workers. The advantage of having prior familiarity with the workplace and the workers can be of much help to the inspection team (Eaton, 2000). However, sometimes the familiarity can interfere with a supervisor’s objectivity in making decisions concerning the safety of the workers. It is important to contact the supervisor when the inspecting team is at work but the supervisor should not operate as a tour guide in the workplace. If the supervisor is not around, and still cannot be present to accompany the supervising team, the supervisor should be contacted before the team leaves the workplace for general and specific information they may want to know. The supervisor should be informed of the recommendations reached and advised on the items that need immediate correction. These then should be noted as approved, on the report. These are necessary because they keep the record clear and act as reminders during the next inspection routine (Eaton, 2000). The hazards should be reported by the inspection team even though at times it may be interpreted as criticism by the supervisor. However, these reports should be objective and sustain a firm and friendly attitude, which is fair.
No specific fixed amount of time can be set aside for inspection because those processes depend on several factors such as number of questions raised, the number of the things found on the ground and the complexity of the work matters. If limited time is set aside for the operation, and only allows for a hasty observation, the results can be ineffective (Eaton, 2000). Therefore, because the process involves detecting and presenting a workplace free of hazards, the time should state when to inspect a certain area or equipment in the workplace, who should carry out the operation and the degree of detail that need to be inspected in every area and equipment.
Frequency of inspection
Frequency of inspection depends on varied factors for every workplace, such as the legislation set by the organization (Eaton, 2000). The accidents and incidents recorded that have been previously recorded determine the number of inspections carried out in a workplace. The size of varied work operations and type of equipments used in the workplace, for example, those that are dangerous require more frequent inspections. Number of shifts in the workplace and new processes or machinery in the workplace also determines the frequency of inspection processes. The areas with the highest risk in the workplace environment should be given extra attention and more frequent inspections.
Prior to a concrete examination process, the inspectors should engage in a discussion about the planned route of inspection. A review of what is to be searched and the route to be taken by all members of the inspection team is crucial before the process begins. For instance, before starting to inspect noisy areas, it is important for a group discussion on what is expected to avoid the use of unsatisfactory methods of communication such as arm waving and unnecessary shouting during the processes (Hopwood, 2006).
The inspectors should wear protective equipments before getting into high risk areas and if these equipments are not available, the inspectors should not get into these risky areas (Hopwood, 2006). This should therefore be listed as a deficiency in the final report so that re-inspection can be carried out later when these protective equipments are available.
Routine inspections are an imperative aspect of programs in place to cater for accident prevention, occupational disease and fire prevention. It also helps in ensuring that workplaces comply with the requirements laid out by the labor codes of a given region (Hopwood, 2006).
Role of Routine Inspections in a Prevention Program
The main goal of routine workplace inspection is to prevent hazards through prevention programs that focus on health and safety. The safety programs are objectively placed to aid in the identification of health and safety hazards that may arise in the workplace, developing health and safety standards and procedures, establishing preventive measures and monitoring the effectiveness of controls (Hopwood, 2006).
When implemented in the right way, routine inspections aid in supporting and improving other aspects of program components, and therefore, should not be perceived as a one-time activity. To ensure effectiveness, the inspections must be performed as frequently as possible, and be made a vital element of a logical accident avoidance program (Eaton, 2000).
It is also important for the senior administrators or the managements to demonstrate their commitment to performing inspections and the goals that they intend to achieve. One of the most important moves to make this a reality is by developing and disseminating a prevention policy, which emphasizes on inspection (Johnston, 2011). The form and the components of that policy may vary depending on the requirements of one’s business, but generally, it should ensure that the senior management is committed to inspection and that they recognize its importance, clearly outline the role(s) of inspection aiding the implementation of the company’s overall aims of the company, particularly related to workplace health and safety . The policy should also illustrate the designation of the persons tasked with ensuring proper operation of the inspection system as well as specifying the measures that are required of the employer and the employees to abide by, in terms of the company’s code and the regulations (Hopwood, 2006).
The second important move to ensuring optimal effectiveness would be to develop specific procedures that identify the frequency of inspections, the work areas that require inspection, the responsibility for conducting inspections, review of the recommendations and the implementation of the corrective measures, as well as the qualification of the individuals that have the responsibility of carrying out the inspections.
Steps to Setting up a Good Workplace Inspection Program
Planning the Action to be taken
The team carrying out the inspection ought to be comprised of the manager, the floor supervisor, an employee with good background knowledge of the different procedures, and an employee that is a member of the work place committee or just a representative. The members of the team may be determined by the work areas that need inspection and the particular technical necessities. However, an expert knowledge, such as an electrician or engineer, should always be involved in the inspection of all the equipment, processes and practices (Hopwood, 2006).
The effectiveness of an inspection procedure is determined by the overall ability of the team members to identify hazards, and this requires good knowledge and understanding of the nature of the industrial processes, tasks and operations, and the relevant safety requirements and standards. It also requires a comprehension of the full range of a variety of hazards linked to equipment, processes and the working environment, as well as the knowledge of the previous accidents and the work areas that are prone to particular types of accidents to ensure workplace health and safety (Hopwood, 2006).
As a backup plan, the management should develop “floor plan guides” to facilitate their efforts in the identification of the major pieces of equipment, storage compartment and traffic regions (Hopwood, 2006). It is also necessary to take note of any information, which may be of relevance to the purposes of inspection, like the location of first aid kits, fire extinguishers, ventilation outlets, among others.
Physical Inspection of Premises
In the view that there is no single workplace that can be considered as perfectly safe, all workplaces, including offices, storage areas and maintenance areas ought to be inspected. Some of the areas that are not commonly used as workplaces, like parking facilities, cafeterias or locker rooms are also supposed to be inspected. There are a number of factors that should be considered when determining the number of inspections to be performed and the frequency of occurrence. These factors can be the number and scale of the processes, operations or tasks to be inspected, the equipment considered hazardous and that require inspections at fixed intervals. The processes that pose a significant hazard and that require separate and more frequent inspections, the number of shifts, as well as the introduction of a new process or new machine in the work place that require inspection also establish inspection rate (Hopwood, 2006). Generally, it is important to note that the entire workplace ought to be under inspection at least once annually.
In the attempt of ensuring consistency and avoiding the possibility of disastrous oversights, it is recommended that the management ensures that they have prepared a checklist, which identifies all the potential hazards. The checklists should be under regular review to ensure that they reflect all the changes or alterations to the equipment or processes and the accident reports. The most effective checklists should be based on particular processes, activities or workstations. In the case of small businesses, they may need to address a single worker or just a particular task. The bottom-line is that every workstation is supposed to have its own checklist (Hopwood, 2006).
The checklists are developed progressively, with repeated inspections, over long periods of time, that could take years, but they should cover all the areas of business processes. Each organization should design own checklists, based on the processes in place and the years of experience it has. Generally, it is important to note that any of the workplaces present unique opportunities for hazards and it is only through the checklists that one can have a point of reference (Hopwood, 2006). However, attention should not be limited to the items on the checklist. As soon as other hazards are identified, they should be immediately recorded and appropriate steps initiated to address them and one all this is done, the inspection is complete.
Good reports make it easy to acquire information and obtain support from management for observations resulting from the inspections. These reports are necessary in mitigating and eliminating risks, and are used to bring awareness to the management about the problems in a concise and factual manner. The efficiency of inspections can be enhanced if the findings are speedily passed on to the stakeholders and corrective measures are promptly formulated and implemented (Hopwood, 2006). The individuals that should receive an inspection report include the workplace manager, department managers, supervisors, members of the place committees, workplace health and safety representative, health and safety coordinator and maintenance manager.
Following up on Recommendations
For effectiveness of inspection in any prevention program, the information gathered must be analyzed and rightfully utilized. Given the differences in organizations, the skill levels of the persons tasked with the responsibility of reporting will vary, but there are factors that should be constant among such individuals (Collins, 2001). First, the responsibility of analyzing the inspection reports is one of the primary roles of the workplace committee and the work place health and safety representative. Some particular issues may require the opinions of some experts. If concerns are raised during an inspection procedure, the individuals tasked with the responsibility of reviewing the inspection reports should also have the authority to undertake the necessary corrective measures and delegation of authority as appropriate (Hopwood, 2006).
It is also important that those tasked with the responsibility of performing the inspections receive timely feedback because lack of it may lead to assumptions like the inspection is pointless. Lastly, the information acquired from regular inspections should be subjected to comprehensive analysis, to determine the areas that need general corrective measures and any trends for the effectiveness of the auditing program.
Thorough analysis of the inspection reports is essential in identifying the need for training in certain areas, explaining why certain types of accidents are prone in certain areas and establishing an order or priority for the corrective actions (John stone, 2011). In addition, it aids in establishing healthy work methods or improving the existing methods, as well as identifying areas equipment and tasks, which require more in depth risk analysis.
Collins, L. R., & Schneid, T. D. (2001). Physical hazards of the workplace. CRC Press.
Dikshith, T. S. S. (2013). Hazardous Chemicals: Safety Management and Global Regulations. CRC Press.
Eaton, A. E., & Nocerino, T. (2000). The Effectiveness of Health and Safety Committees: Results of a Survey of Public‐Sector Workplaces The Effectiveness of Health and Safety Committees. Industrial Relations: A Journal of Economy and Society, 39(2), 265-290.
Hopwood, D., & Thompson, S. (2006). Workplace safety: A guide for small and midsized companies. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.
Johnstone, R., & Frick, K. (2011). Regulating Workplace Risks: A Comparative Study of Inspection Regimes in Times of Change. Edward Elgar Publishing.