Conducting periodic workplace inspections can demonstrate a facility manager’s or building owner’s commitment to improving safety and health in the workplace. These workplace inspections—or safety walk-arounds—can also let managers see for themselves how their facility’s safety and health program is working, and determine whether it is actually effective in identifying and eliminating hazards.
OSHA has issued a fact sheet that includes the following suggestions for safety walk-arounds by managers:
- Familiarize yourself with the workplace and its operations and hazards that have been previously identified. Some of the things you may want to examine are past inspection reports, injury and workers’ compensation records, incident investigation reports, and recent near-miss incidents. Be sure to check if any previously identified hazards have been mitigated.
- Talk to workplace safety representatives, other managers and supervisors about their concerns. Include the safety committee if one exists.
- Wear the proper personal protection equipment (PPE). Lead by example and wear the same personal PPE the employees wear.
- Consider taking the same hazard identification safety training taken by workers.
- Limit the size of the inspection group. Large groups tend to stifle open communication with workers.
- Keep an eye out for easily observable hazards such as tripping hazards, blocked exits, and frayed/exposed electrical wires.
- Look for property damage such as walls or doors damaged by equipment or forklift traffic may indicate a potential for future worker injuries.
- Talk to workers at their stations. Make them comfortable talking with you and assure them that you are interested in improving safety, not blaming anyone for your findings. Avoid yes/no questions by asking open ended questions such as, “What is the most hazardous task in your job? What makes it hazardous?”
- Observe workers as they perform their duties. How do they lift heavy objects? Do they stand/sit in awkward postures? Are they performing repetitive motions? Take notes and photos.
- If possible, find solutions for hazards while you are conducting the inspection.
Make sure to follow up. Prepare a post-walkaround abatement plan spelling out how hazards will be addressed in a timely manner and identifying interim controls that will be used while more permanent measures are developed. Share the abatement plan with other managers, supervisors, and the workers themselves.
OSHA’s fact sheet, “Safety Walk-Arounds for Managers” is available here.