There are many purposes for a hazard inspection, all of which should be designed to enhance the effectiveness of the organization and the workers. Primarily, inspections that are well planned and executed are used to identify hazardous conditions before these result in an accident (Blake, 1963). I like to refer to inspections as “hazard inspections” because that is the real purpose, to identify hazards. You can call them what you like if you understand the purpose is to identify hazards. To be successful, the inspection must also identify not only hazards but their systemic causes as well (Inspection Techniques and Hazard Recognition, 1985).
By identifying and eliminating hazards, you only correct that hazard. This is what I call a “do loop.” You identify a hazard this month, and it is corrected. A couple of months later, the hazard is back, and you identify it again, and it is corrected again. However, through the identification of the systemic causes of hazards, you may eliminate the reason for the hazard and break this “do loop.” Unfortunately, many organizations continue to only identify and correct hazards one at a time, only to do it repeatedly.
Inspections are also used to show management’s interest in the safety program. What upper management spends time on, the workforce will see as necessary. An inspection may also be used to sell the safety program to employees and provide an opportunity for the safety personnel to contact workers and solicit their support for the safety program (Handbook of Occupational Safety and Health, 1985).
There are many types of inspections, but there are only two basic types of hazard inspections, the one-call and the continuous. The one-call inspections are usually conducted by a safety professional and normally carried out to appraise the recent safety performance of an organization (Blake, 1963). This is the full inspection. Most of us conduct yearly, but the inspections may be performed more often if the organization is involved in a high-hazard operation or if problems exist. The second type of inspection is called a continuous inspection. These inspections are conducted by shop personnel and occur on a continuing basis (Handbook of Occupational Safety and Health, 1985). Many people refer to these inspections as quality control. This is also an area where the supervisor can be very effective (Supervisor Safety Manual, 1967). The supervisor can delegate inspections to specialists who work in this field to expand their knowledge and experience. The supervisor may want to conduct some of the inspections and use this time to enforce their commitment to safety. The continuous inspection is essential because the hazards cannot simply wait for the annual inspection. Hazards must be looked for in a proactive manner and corrected as quickly as possible. In all cases, a systems inspections program can reduce the hazards while showing a continuous effort to improve the system.
Another important type of inspection is the job hazard analysis. This is a systematic and thorough review of the work process as it is being done or before it is done. By identifying individual steps within the course of the job, we can look to see if the steps are properly sequenced, if correct tools are provided, if the job requires the operator to be standing or seated, if protective equipment is needed, and if the requirements of human capabilities have been addressed, and lastly whether the process is getting the product you want. After we identified the hazards within the process, we can apply solutions to correct the hazards and improve the entire process (Accident Prevention Manual, 1997). This analysis can often be time-consuming, but it will provide benefits for the whole life of the process review (Inspection Techniques and Hazard Recognition, 1985).
If the inspections are conducted and hazards later identified by systemic causes, the correction of the systemic defect would eliminate many hazards. Unfortunately, it does not always work that way. If an organization loses sight of systemic causes, it may never fix some of the hazards. Ninety days after the original inspection you conduct a follow-up inspection regarding hazards corrected. You can also encourage management to correct the systemic deficiencies. Follow-up inspections also keep the work on track and keep the emphasis on the defects of the system.
Any safety program can benefit from a good, solid inspection program that is designed to support the organization (Weaver, 1992). Whether it is the one-call inspection, the continuous inspection, or a job hazard analysis, information gained about the condition of the program can be priceless.
Accident Prevention Manual for Industrial Operations, seventh edition. National Safety Council, USA, 1977.
Blake, Roland P. ed. Industrial Safety, third edition. Prentice Hall, USA, 1992.
Handbook of Occupational Safety and Health. National Safety Council, USA, 1985.
Inspection Techniques and Hazard Recognition. U.S. Army Safety Center, USA, 1985.
Supervisor Safety Manual, third edition. National Safety Council, USA, 1967.
Weaver, France. Camping Provides Real Ammunition in War on Civilian Accident Costs, Civilian Accident Prevention Program Report, Winter, 1992: 5-6.