All workplaces have to do periodic inspections of things like safety procedures, equipment, personal protective equipment (PPE) and exit routes. These inspections help businesses make sure their operations are up to code and functioning well, and they can be useful in office environments, manufacturing floors, warehouses, laboratories and many other work sites.
Workplaces can perform inspections in a variety of ways. Some places send a knowledgeable person to do a walk-through of the facility and look for problems. Others have sit-down meetings to discuss observed hazards in the workplace. Meanwhile, many facilities also employ checklists so inspections involve specific items and are recorded for future reference. These checklists can provide a simple way to make inspections concrete and in many cases can improve operations and safety.
Benefits of Inspection Checklists
Inspection checklists can be very helpful in the workplace when used correctly. Consider the following:
- Checklists can keep people organized and on task. They provide guidelines that those performing the inspection can follow.
- Employees will feel accountable for performing the inspection because there is a written record.
- Employees will feel more confident in machinery and safety procedures knowing these things are inspected regularly.
- Problems will get caught before accidents happen.
- If OSHA or another outside person/agency inspects the work site, you will have clear documentation about the inspections your site has performed. For example, if a vehicle in your facility malfunctions but you have documentation showing it was recently inspected, you can demonstrate you followed proper safety procedures.
In general, checklists can prevent vague inspections. They provide step-by-step methods for analyzing equipment, workspaces and tasks.
While paper checklists are common, electronic versions of checklists are available or can be created at your workplace. This way, users can quickly input data using a tablet, laptop or smartphone, and this information will be easily accessible for reporting in the future.
Getting Started with Inspection Checklists
When it comes to inspection checklists, there is no one-size-fits-all form you can refer to. The type of information you’ll need to have in a checklist will depend on the machinery, tools or tasks you are analyzing. You can obtain pre-made checklists, but in many cases you’ll still want to adapt these checklists to your workplace to make them as useful as possible. When parts of a checklist don’t apply to your facility, workers may start skipping over portions of the checklist and miss important items.
Setting Up an Inspection Routine
So who should perform inspections? Generally, people knowledgeable about the task at hand should perform an inspection. It’s often a good idea to have a manager and a worker perform an inspection together, if possible. In some cases this makes more sense than others, though. (If the inspection being performed is a daily or weekly equipment check, one person who uses the equipment may be able to check it alone.)
The frequency of inspections will also depend on the type of inspection. Some equipment may need to be checked for problems once per week, while a full evaluation of emergency procedures may only need to be performed annually. Consider the needs of your facility and the regulations in place in your area and industry.
Using Forms & Findings
When people are actually out on the floor doing inspections, you will obviously want them to be thorough. One good way to help with this is to use checklists that list items in a logical order. For example, a checklist could walk employees through inspecting a machine by starting where the machine gets plugged in and turned on and then moving through the typical way a person would use the machine on the job.
Also encourage inspectors to make comments on checklists, as this can help prevent people from quickly checking off all the boxes without really reading the checklist in detail.
Once an inspection has been completed, those involved should solicit feedback from supervisors, safety managers and other concerned parties to help determine how soon each problematic finding should be fixed and who should be in charge of it. Many checklists leave room for these assignments and deadlines, which can facilitate accountability and prevent problems from slipping through the cracks. It’s not enough for workers to note they found problems; those problems also need to be resolved quickly.
Potential Problems with Checklists
As mentioned above, when people get used to using checklists, they sometimes begin to go through them quickly without as much thought. This problem becomes even more common when checklists aren’t tailored to your workplace or aren’t specific enough. Encouraging notes, quickly following up on issues revealed during inspections and making inspections a topic of discussion can show employees that the company takes these checks seriously.
An additional problem with checklists is that while they can help reveal common problems, they may not assist very well in uncovering new hazards. Because people will be used to looking for certain issues, they may overlook anything not on the checklist. When processes or machinery change this can be especially problematic. For example, if a new chemical is added to a work process, the checklist may not include information about any new PPE required for the job. Consequently, checklists should be updated when anything in the workplace changes that could impact safety.
Because checklists can make inspections systematic and well documented, they provide many benefits for employers and employees. If your company hasn’t used many inspection checklists in the past, resources are available to help you get started. We offer a variety of electronic checklists for assessing hazards like combustible dust and evaluating procedures like emergency drills.
OSHA also created a series of checklists to assist small businesses that range in subject matter from fire protection to hand tools. Some of these checklists may work well for your workplace, while others may serve as good starting points for building your own inspection checklists.
Ultimately, inspections can help identify problems before they cause accidents, which means employees will be safer, spend less time away from work because of injuries and illnesses and feel more comfortable in the workplace. All those things are good for morale as well as the company’s bottom line.