OSHA’s new fact sheet, Safety Walk-Arounds for Managers, provides suggestions for conducting inspections that can help you evaluate the effectiveness of your current safety and health efforts and communicate directly with workers about hazards in their jobs.
There are at least two reasons why managers and owners should periodically conduct workplace inspections themselves. First, inspections demonstrate management’s commitment to improving safety and health by finding and fixing hazards. Second, walk-arounds let managers see for themselves how the safety and health program is working and whether it is effective in identifying and eliminating hazards. Safety walk-arounds can also help managers and owners assess how key elements of the safety program are working. For example, how engaged are employees in the program? Do employees feel they have received appropriate training? Do they know how to report a safety or health incident or concern?
Preparation is important prior to starting an inspection. Take the time to familiarize yourself with the workplace and operations and the hazards that have been previously identified. Pre-inspection activities might include: identify the most hazardous areas by examining past inspection reports, injury and workers compensation records, incident investigation reports, and recent near miss incidents. Plan to focus your inspections on areas where hazards have been identified and check to see if previously-identified hazards have been abated or if further action is needed.
When onsite, make sure you are wearing the right PPE for each area you enter. Nothing takes away credibility faster than having the wrong PPE, or not wearing it properly. Be safe; don’t expose yourself to hazards during an inspection. Limit the size of the inspection group. Large groups tend to stifle open communication with employees. Look for easily observable hazards first.
Post-inspection follow-up is important to establish your credibility as a manager who is committed to improving safety. Failure to follow up can often stifle worker participation and enthusiasm, which can be hard to regain. Very soon after your inspection, prepare an abatement plan containing a list of the hazards found, corrective actions needed, and a reasonable timeline for implementation. Some complex hazards may require further evaluation, study, or engineering work to design and implement appropriate controls
The National Safety Council’s article, Speaking of Safety: Changing the Atmosphere Around Safety Conversations, helps managers engage in effective safety conversations with workers at all levels
Why talking about Safety is a heated topic amongst employees and managers
How You Should Communicate Safety Topics
To make a genuine, long-term impact, take a persuasive approach rather than a punitive one. Don’t police workers they’ll find ways around safety violations, instead present the information in the way that makes the most sense to the speaker, consider how the worker will receive it. You have to speak their language and give a good solid reason that will resonate with them as to why they should change their unsafe behavior.
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