Teach workplace managers how to inspect for safety

By: Travis Rhoden

Publication: Workplace Safety Regulatory Alert

Date Posted: 05/03/2021

Workplace safety managers inspections

Managers and executives can show their commitment to safety by spending time with employees during periodic walk-around inspections.

During the inspections, managers and executives will see first-hand how hazards are found and fixed. They’ll be able to ask employees about the safety measures they take for their jobs, and how they report hazards, near misses, and injuries. And, they can ask workers what they think about the training they’ve received.

A good safety inspection program includes planning, execution, and follow-up.

Planning for workplace safety

It’s crucial for managers and executives to prepare for their walk-arounds. Planning will help the inspection go smoothly, and it will help ensure they observe the procedures they want to see and ask the questions they want to ask.

To plan ahead, managers and executives should:

  • Review past inspection reports to familiarize themselves with previously identified hazards and control measures;
  • Use the inspection reports along with injury and workers’ compensation reports, and incident and near miss investigation reports to identify the most hazardous operations in the facility;
  • Consult with supervisors and safety committee representatives to find out current safety issues;
  • Acquire and learn how to use the proper personal protective equipment (PPE) needed in the areas being inspected;
  • Get the same training on how to identify hazards that supervisors and workers get; and
  • Review production schedules to ensure the inspection is conducted when they’ll see the most hazardous operations.

Execution of workplace safety for managers

During the walk-around, executives and managers should:

  • Wear the appropriate PPE.
  • Keep the inspection group small to facilitate communication.
  • Talk to workers at their work stations. Workers are likely to know the most about the hazards and safety issues in their jobs. Inspectors can tap into that knowledge. They should put workers at ease, and make them comfortable when they talk.
  • Reassure workers that the inspection is being done to find and fix hazards and not to place blame.
  • Encourage conversation by asking open-ended questions such as:
    • What is the most hazardous task in your job? What do you recommend to eliminate those hazards?
    • If you have been injured in your job, what was the injury and how did it happen? What was done to make your job safer?
    • How would you report an injury, hazard, or near miss?
  • Look for easily observable hazards first, such as:
    • Tripping hazards.
    • Blocked exits.
    • Frayed/exposed electrical wires.
    • Missing machine guards.
    • Poor housekeeping.
    • Poorly maintained equipment.
  • Look for property damage, such as walls or doors damaged by equipment or forklift traffic. Such damage may indicate a potential for future worker injuries.
  • Seek out and talk to the most recently-hired workers to get their fresh perspectives and insights on the safety program.
  • Observe workers as they perform their job. For example, do they lift heavy objects? Do they stand/sit in awkward postures? Are they performing repetitive motions? If so, the inspectors should take notes and photos. If their job involves handling chemicals or exposure to excessive noise and/or heat, a more detailed evaluation by a safety professional may be in order.
  • Brainstorm with workers to try to find solutions for hazards as they’re identified during the inspection.
  • Make and prioritize a list of hazards that must be addressed.

About the author
Travis Rhoden - EH&S Editor

Travis is a senior editor with J. J. Keller & Associates, Inc. He specializes in safety management systems, job hazard analysis, machine guarding, storage rack safety, forklift training and OSHA inspections. 

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