Workplace inspections

Workplace inspections are an opportunity to identify hazards and assess risk in your workplace.

They need to be carried out regularly.

Regular inspections reveal changes and allow you to engage directly with staff about safety.

‘Staff notice what you do. When you show a commitment to safety and make positive changes they know you are genuine. Making safety improvements not only affects your staff but can also increase the efficiency of your business operations.’

Dimitri Hari

Operations Manager, Pyrmont Seafoods, NSW

A workplace inspection program needs to include:

  • daily inspections of equipment
  • initial startup inspections
  • walk-arounds of mobile equipment before use
  • daily and/or weekly supervisor inspections
  • weekly and/or monthly departmental inspections.
When you must inspect

You need to inspect and review your risk control measures:

  • when a control measure is not working (eg when someone is injured or experiences a ‘near miss’)
  • before workplace layout or practices are changed
  • when new equipment, materials or work processes are introduced
  • if a new problem is found
  • if consultation shows a review is necessary
  • if a health and safety representative requests it.
Conducting an inspection

During an inspection, identify any unsafe conditions and activities that may cause injury or illness, and figure out how to eliminate or minimise them. Follow these steps:

Use a checklist to make sure your inspection is thorough and consistent with previous inspections. This will also serve as a record of your inspection.

Ask yourself what hazards are associated with the job that you are observing.

Observe how workers perform tasks: Do they follow safe work procedures and use personal protective equipment as required?

Ask workers how they perform their tasks. Talk to them about their health and safety concerns.

Record any unsafe actions or conditions that you see.

Think about tasks that workers may also perform that you did not observe.

What to focus on

You can approach safety inspections in a number of ways.

For example:

  1. You could focus on the most common tasks your workers perform.
  2. You could break up the worksite into specific segments with focused checklists to look at specific hazards and activities in each area.
  3. You could target the specific issues addressed by your safety program, such as material handling, confined space entry, or workplace violence.

Tying your workplace inspections to elements of your health and safety program will help you remain proactive about safety throughout your organisation.

Things to look for:

  • uncorrected problems from the previous inspection report
  • workers not following safe work procedures or procedures that aren’t correct
  • improper storage or handling of materials (for example, boxes in front of emergency exits or electrical panels, or chemicals not being used appropriately)
  • accumulation of liquid or grease on floors
  • poor maintenance of equipment.

If your inspection reveals a problem, try to understand why it has happened.

For example, if you see a wet floor, ask why. Possible explanations could include a water leak, a job process that's creating the problem, or a lack of training on how to clean up the hazard.

Fix it right the first time and the problem is less likely to re-occur.

After the inspection

Follow this checklist to address issues and conclude the inspection:

  • fix serious hazards or unsafe work practices immediately; this is a legal obligation. For example, if you find that a ladder has a damaged rung, immediately repair or replace it.
  • prioritize less serious hazards and assign someone to fix each one
  • follow up on any actions that will take time to complete (for example, purchasing new equipment)
  • let workers know what you find during inspections
  • ensure that the health and safety representative or committee has access to, and reviews, the inspection reports and process.
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