Workplace Safety Inspections

BY JOSEPH PERFETTO Workplace safety inspections are required annually in accordance with Office of the Chief of Naval Operations Instruction 5100.23 series (OPNAVINST 5100.23) and the Code of Federal Regulations (29 CFR 1960.25). Workplace inspections are one of the principle means of detecting hazards and unsafe behaviors that may develop […]

BY JOSEPH PERFETTO

Workplace safety inspections are required annually in accordance with Office of the Chief of Naval Operations Instruction 5100.23 series (OPNAVINST 5100.23) and the Code of Federal Regulations (29 CFR 1960.25). Workplace inspections are one of the principle means of detecting hazards and unsafe behaviors that may develop in a workplace over time. Supervisors and employees should always be on the lookout for hazards and unsafe behaviors, but there are occasions when hazards overlooked due to complacency.

Workplace inspections help to ensure hazards are identified and corrected before a mishap occurs, and may be conducted by a safety and health professional, collateral duty safety officer, supervisor, higher level of command or through base operations support services. These inspections seek to discover conditions, procedures, and practices that if allowed to continue, could lead to mishaps. Your installation safety office and preventive medicine activity are another resource that can help conduct these critical inspections.

Although workplace inspections are usually scheduled once annually, what happens during the remaining 364 days of the year?  Employees are the eyes and ears of the deckplates and are a key extension of a command safety office in ensuring one’s own safety and health, as well as the safety and health of others.

During workplace inspections checklists may be used; line items from the CFR, National Fire Protection Agency, American National Standards Institute and other agencie’s regulations can be utilized, and a comprehensive checklist is available at https://intelshare.intelink.gov/sites/navsafe/OnOffDuty/Workplace_Inspection_Checklist.xls. This and other checklists are not and should never be considered complete and individuals utilizing checklists should always be properly trained prior to using one. Checklists are designed only to give a basic idea of what hazards could exist and anything that is considered out of the ordinary or just does not seem right should be immediately reported to the safety officer for further investigation or evaluation.

Inspection Frequency

Inspections and assessments of operations, practices and facilities are required annually, or more often if necessary. Inspection frequency can be daily, weekly, monthly or quarterly based on the type of organization and potential hazardous activities and conditions.

Frequently changing workplace conditions or high risk operations warrant more frequent checks to ensure safe performance.

Inspection procedures will emphasize use of observation, interviews, operational reviews, performance testing, and similar techniques designed to detect high risk of both unsafe acts and conditions at the earliest possible time.

Most concerns during formal inspections or assessments are related to complacency and ignorance of standards. During inspections be on the lookout for statements such as “that has been like that for a while” or “that has been written up numerous times and is never fixed.”  Statements such as these help indicate issues that may need to be addressed.

Safety inspections should:

  • Detect missing equipment guards, poor housekeeping, inadequate maintenance of tools or other unsafe conditions or equipment that might cause mishaps.
  • Detect short cuts or other unsafe actions by personnel such as operating equipment without authority or at unsafe speeds, unsafe handling of materials and using improper personal protective equipment.
  • Encourage employees to inspect their own work areas and practices.

Inspections can be accomplished by supervisors or employees.

Rountinely Identified Items

During formal annual inspections and assessments there are some deficiencies that are generally identified, such as electrical. This can include daisy chains, excessive use of extensions cords or overloaded junction boxes. These items should be identified by the employees and supervisors in routine inspections and assessments.

Formal inspections should focus on items not routinely inspected or assessed. While performing formal inspections and assessments, non-routine items such as ergonomics (work benches, desks), fall protection equipment inspections, respiratory protection equipment inspections should be inspected. Here are some questions to ask yourself: Does the command have a recent industrial hygiene survey? Do the employees know where the survey is located? Do the employees know how to read it? Is the survey being adhered too?

What Can You Do?

With all the established inspections and assessments, why does safety still fall to the wayside? This is an unfortunate and recurring occurrence. Is someone bypassing a workcenter safety requirement no matter what it is? Regrettably, the answer is often yes and this happens more than it should.

Does taking a short cut or bypassing a safety regulation always cause a fatality or injury? No, it does not.  Are some safety rules a pain? You bet they are. However, these rules and regulations are required and are here for your protection. Most rules are written in blood, because someone has been seriously injured or killed requiring the establishment of these rules, procedures and standards.

Don’t allow yourself or anyone else become an incident statistic, follow the rules and standards. Remember to be safety-wise and if you see something wrong say something. The life you save could be your own.


Mr. Perfetto worked in the Shore Safety Programs Directorate of the Naval Safety Center, where he served as a safety and occupational health specialist.