By law, California employers must provide a safe workplace. Failure to do so not only leads to steep penalties but also can threaten the life or health of your workers. So you ask yourself, “What can I do to keep things safe for my workers and also avoid the fines?” A critical step to avoiding safety hazards, employee injuries, and costly citations is conducting your own site safety inspections on a regular basis.
The primary goal of these inspections is to identify potential dangers and address them, before any of your workers get hurt.
It is up to you as the employer how frequently you conduct site inspections (i.e. daily, weekly, monthly, or quarterly), but you must specify that frequency in your Injury and Illness Prevention Program (IIPP). You also need to conduct additional inspections under certain circumstances, such as when a new person is hired, an injury occurs, or a new hazard is introduced to the workplace.
How to conduct an effective safety inspection – a three part process
PART I – Before you start an inspection: Check to see that your company safety programs, procedures, and training are all up to date and accurate. If any changes are required, seek to implement those right away. Your employees will not benefit from outdated procedures.
Also, ask yourself “What is the purpose of my safety inspection?” Are you fulfilling a legal requirement? Are you building or maintaining a positive safety culture? Are you addressing a specific Cal/OSHA requirement?
Once you have completed these steps, assign a safety manager to be in charge of and conduct the inspection. This can be you or one of your employees. In either case, the safety manager must have the knowledge and experience to see whether safety standards are being met.
PART II – During the inspection: Have a site-specific checklist that helps you identify hazards and correct those hazards before a worker suffers an injury or illness. Don’t just walk through the site and consider that an inspection. Stop, and take time to observe working conditions and the behavior of your employees.
Some things to look for in your inspection include:
- Employees engaging in unsafe work practices, such as mishandling or improper use of equipment.
- Employees exposing themselves to injury by not using proper lifting, bending, or stooping techniques.
- Tripping hazards, frayed cords, wet floors, damaged equipment, and other physical dangers.
- Lack of personal protective equipment when exposed to chemicals, vapors, or other air quality issues.
PART III – After the inspection: Review your checklist. If you uncovered any safety hazards, take action to remedy those right away. Also, you should use this as an opportunity to educate your staff on the problems you identified. Set up a safety meeting or a series of meetings right away to discuss your findings and brainstorm with your staff on how to avoid such problems in the first place.
By regularly promoting safety in the workplace and taking care of problems when they occur, you establish a safer workplace. By including your workers in the solution process, you also build a culture where they’re likely to be more vigilant in looking out for hazards and either reporting those to you or even taking steps on their own, such as moving a tripping hazard out of the way.
Your own site inspections, reports, and corrective actions help eliminate worker injuries and help save worker lives, while also preparing you better for the next time Cal/OSHA drops by. These inspections are worth doing right.