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 worker member to inspect the workplace. If possible, the worker should be a certified member of the JHSC (i.e., they’ve completed their JHSC Part 1 and Part 2 training, s.9(24)). The worker 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 monitor current work practices to ensure the safety of all workers. Workplace inspections determine:
- If a hazard is present
- Which workers are exposed or likely to be exposed
- Any workers 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
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 of the actual physical workplace inspection that must be undertaken during every inspection of the workplace. They are:
- Talking to workers
- Making observations
- Recording observations and documenting findings on an inspection checklist
To ensure that inspections are conducted in an efficient fashion, determine an appropriate number of employees to talk to. Ensure you get an adequate sample from different departments or work areas.
Have a notebook or paper and clipboard on hand for taking notes during conversations, and note any pertinent observations. Use a standard customized inspection checklist to keep you on track and to ensure no items are forgotten or overlooked.
Talking to Workers
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 workers is an integral part of the workplace inspection because workers 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, workers 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 at the conclusion of the inspection.
Talking to workers will also indicate training gaps or areas where training can be used to reinforce safe practices. Be sure to focus on both new and seasoned workers when determining if training is up-to-date. If workers bring forward issues or concerns, be sure to pay attention to the source of their distress. Inspect it, ask questions, and make any applicable recommendations.
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.
JHSC workplace inspectors that talk to workers, make observations, and use standard customized checklists will find the task of completing an inspection enjoyable, productive, and useful. Using a proper and well-laid out checklist will lend itself to better hazard identification, which has the potential to prevent an injury or save a life.
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.