Workplace Inspections As Mishap Deterrents

STORY BY JOSEPH PERFETTO

Workplace inspections are one of the principal 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 where they may overlook hazards due to complacency.

Workplace inspections help to ensure hazards are identified and corrected before a mishap occurs. An inspection may be conducted by a safety and health professional, collateral duty safety officer, supervisor, higher level of command or through base operating services. Inspections may reveal conditions, procedures, and practices that, if allowed to continue, could lead to mishaps. Especially targeted hazards might be scheduled, such as wearing safety glasses one month and then using machine guards the next. 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 for a command safety office in ensuring responsibility for one’s own, as well as safety and health of others.

During workplace inspections, checklists are sometimes used. Line items from the Code of Federal Regulations, National Fire Protection Agency, American National Standards Institute and other agencies regulations may be utilized. The Naval Safety Center occupational safety and health web page offers downloadable comprehensive checklists. The Safety Center checklist and other checklists are not (and should not be) considered complete. Checklists are designed to give a basic of what to look for. 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 and evaluation. Prior to using a checklist, the individual using it should be properly trained.

Inspection Frequency

Inspections and assessments of operations, practices and facilities are required annually, or more often if necessary. Inspection frequency may 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 periodic 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 is complacency and ignorance of the standards. Be on the lookout during inspections for statements such as, “that has been like that for a while,” or “that has been written up X number of times and is never fixed.” These obviously indicate issues that need to be addressed.

Routinely Identified Items

During formal annual inspections and assessments there are some deficiencies that are generally identified such as electrical (e.g., daisy chains, excessive use of extensions cords, 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/assessment, non-routine items such as ergonomics (work benches, desks), fall protection (equipment) inspections, respiratory protection (equipment) inspections, confined space e

ntry equipment should be inspected. 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 get bypassed? This is an unfortunate and recurring occurrence. Is someone bypassing a work center safety requirement no matter what it is? Sadly, the answer is yes; and it probably happens every day.

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. Someone has been seriously injured or killed requiring the establishment of most rules, procedures and standards. Obey and follow the rules and standards. Also, if you see something wrong say something. The life you save could be your own. 

A basis of a good safety inspection will:

  1. Detect missing equipment guards, poor housekeeping, inadequate maintenance of tools, or other unsafe conditions or equipment that might cause mishaps.
  2. Detect shortcuts 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.
  3. Encourage employees to inspect their own work areas and practices.

These can be accomplished by supervisors or employees.

 

Mr. Perfetto works in the Shore Safety Programs Directorate at the Naval Safety Center, where he serves as a safety and occupational health specialist.

Mr. Perfetto works in the Shore Safety Programs Directorate at the Naval Safety Center, where he serves as a safety and occupational health specialist.

 

 

 

 

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