How the Joint Health & Safety Committee Should Conduct Workplace Inspections

Workplace inspections are one of the most important functions of the Joint Health and Safety Committee (JHSC). Under the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA), s.9(23), the JHSC must designate a non-management member to inspect the workplace. If possible, the employee should be a certified member of the JHSC. To become certified, a member must complete JHSC Part 1 and Part 2 training. The employee member must inspect the physical condition of the workplace at least once a month (s.9(26)).

The purpose of the monthly inspection is to identify hazards and to make sure current work practices are safe. Workplace inspections determine:

  • If a hazard is present
  • Which employees are exposed or likely to be exposed
  • Any employees who have been subject to illness or injury
  • If established health and safety procedures and processes are being followed

There are four stages of a workplace inspection

  1. Preparation
  2. Inspection
  3. Reporting
  4. Follow-up

In this article, we’ll cover key steps for the JHSC member to take when conducting an inspection.

Conducting the Inspection

There are three major components that must be performed during every workplace inspection. They are:

  • Talking to employees
  • Making observations
  • Recording observations and documenting findings on an inspection checklist

To make sure that inspections are conducted efficiently, determine an appropriate number of employees to talk to. Ensure you get an adequate sample from different departments or work areas.

Take notes during conversations, and write down any relevant observations. Use a standard customized inspection checklist to keep you on track and to ensure no items are forgotten or overlooked.

Talking to Employees

To ensure that inspections are conducted efficiently, determine an appropriate number of employees to talk to. Ensure you get an adequate sample from different departments or work areas. You don’t have to speak with every single employee.

Talking to employees is an integral part of the workplace inspection because employees are familiar with the area and the work processes, so they can help you to identify hazards that may not be listed on the checklist. They may also be able to help you determine if a condition is typical or not. For example, if a work area seems unreasonably warm, employees from that area may confirm that yes, it is always that warm. Or, they may indicate that a cooling unit has recently broken down. It may already be scheduled for repair. If it isn’t, it may be something that you recommend after the inspection.

Talking to employees will also indicate training gaps or areas where training can be used to reinforce safe practices. Focus on both new employees and individuals who have been working at the organization for a longer period of time when determining if training is up-to-date. If employees bring forward issues, pay attention to the source of their distress concern. Inspect it, ask questions, and make any applicable recommendations.

Making Observations

As you inspect the workplace and work through your checklist items, make general observations. Are there new hazards that have yet to be identified? If so, make a note and add them to the checklist. Observation also allows for the evaluation of already implemented controls and safe work practices to determine if they are working as intended, and without inadvertently creating new hazards.

Using an Inspection Checklist

A checklist provides focus and helps to ensure nothing is missed. The checklist you use should be standardized (the same for each monthly inspection) but also customized to include items specific to your workplace.

Most checklists are laid out by the work area. Within each area, there should be a list of items – preferably in the logical order in which you will inspect them. For each item, there should be a column to indicate YES or NO. A checkmark in the YES column would indicate that the item passes inspection. A checkmark in the NO column indicates the item does not pass inspection, and that a recommendation needs to be made.

Include a third column where hazards or additional comments can be noted. If you do spot a hazard, be sure to write down the location, the time of day or shift, and any other applicable details. Additional comments can include notes or ideas for recommended controls if they are apparent immediately. Recommendations for controls don’t have to be noted on inspection checklists – they can be determined during meetings as well.

Completing an inspection is more productive and useful if the inspector talks to employees, makes observations, and uses customized checklists. Using a well-laid-out checklist will make it easier to identify, which has the potential to prevent an injury or save a life.

Download your sample workplace inspection checklist.

Get certified without leaving your office

The Ministry of Labour, Training, and Skills Development requires that the worker carrying out an inspection be certified, if possible.

Get your JHSC members certified so they can learn how to properly conduct an inspection and provide recommendations. Learn more about our JHSC Certification and JHSC Refresher Training.