Tips for conducting an effective health and safety inspection
When auditing, I see a lot of variation in the effectiveness of Health and Safety inspections and assessments. Many are ineffective “tick ‘n’ flick” exercises, while others are done well.
This post provides some tips to help you conduct an effective Health and Safety inspection.
Tip #1: Training
The person doing the inspection needs to be trained in the health and safety legal requirements (criteria) they are inspecting against, and must be allocated sufficient time to conduct the inspection well. While it is a good idea, for instance, to ask someone from another department to conduct an inspection to get a different perspective, this person still needs to know what they are looking for and have the competence to make judgements.
Tip #2: Checklists
Perhaps the main factor affecting how well Health and Safety inspections are done are the checklists used. If a checklist is not used you are relying on the inspector’s memory, and if a checklist is not adequate enough it may affect the quality of the inspection. These are both poor practice.
Checklists should not be too long. Try not to cover every aspect in every inspection. A better approach is to have, say, a monthly, quarterly and annual checklist. For example, Safety Data Sheets need only be checked for currency once per year. The smaller the number of items on the checklist, the more likely the inspection will be effective.
Make sure your checklist items spell out exactly what needs to be checked. For example, “Check chemicals” is too general, “Check SDS for chemicals” is an improvement, but “Check there is an SDS for every chemical” or “Check all SDSs are dated not more than 5 years ago” is even better. These questions give some guidance on what exactly is required to be checked.
Tip #3: Recording data
Provide space for the inspector to record data rather than just a box to tick. This will improve the quality of the inspections. Also ask open questions such as “What was the date of the last evacuation drill?” rather than “Has evacuation drill been conducted in last 12 months”.
Tip #4: Signing off
All inspections should be dated and signed off by the inspector. Perhaps preface the signature line with text such as “I confirm this legal compliance inspection was completed to the best of my ability”.
Tip #5: Addressing noncompliances
Finally, after the inspection is completed, don’t just fix the noncompliances, but try to establish why these noncompliances occurred and address the cause (using the organisation’s “Nonconformity and Corrective Action” procedure).
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