The most widely accepted way to identify hazards is to conduct safety and health inspections. The only way you can be certain of the actual situation is for you to look at it from time to time.
Begin a program of self-inspection in your own workplace. Self-inspection is a must if you are to know where probable hazards exist and whether they are under control.
Later, you will find checklists designed to help you in this fact-finding. They will give you some indication of where you should act to make your business safer and more healthful for your employees.
Note:Applicable regulatory citations appear after most checklist items. These references are provided so that you may look up the actual wording or context for an item in the regulations.
These checklists are by no means all-inclusive. You may wish to add to them or delete portions that do not apply to your business. Consider carefully each item as you come to it and then make your decision.
Don't spend time with items that obviously have no application to your business. Make sure each item is seen by you or your designee, and leave nothing to memory or chance. Write down what you see, or don't see, and what you think you should do about it.
When you have completed the checklists, add this material to your injury information, your employee information, and your process and equipment information. You will now possess many facts that will help you determine what problems exist. Then, if you use the OSHA standards in your problem-solving process, it will be much easier for you to determine the action needed to solve these problems.
Once the hazards have been identified, you can institute the control procedures and establish your four-point safety and health program.
Technical assistance in self-inspection may be available through your insurance carrier, the local safety council and many local, state, and federal agencies, including the state consultation programs and OSHA Area Offices. Additional checklists are available from trade associations, insurance companies, and other similar service organizations.
Your self-inspections should cover safety and health issues in the following areas:
- Processing, Receiving, Shipping and Storage — equipment, job planning, layout, heights, floor loads, projection of materials, material handling and storage methods, training for material handling equipment.
- Building and Grounds Conditions — floors, walls, ceilings, exits, stairs, walkways, ramps, platforms, driveways, aisles.
- Housekeeping Program — waste disposal, tools, objects, materials, leakage and spillage, cleaning methods, schedules, work areas, remote areas, storage areas.
- Electricity — equipment, switches, breakers, fuses, switch-boxes, junctions, special fixtures, circuits, insulation, extensions, tools, motors, grounding, national electric code compliance.
- Lighting — type, intensity, controls, conditions, diffusion, location, glare and shadow control.
- Heating and Ventilation — type, effectiveness, temperature, humidity, controls, natural and artificial ventilation and exhausting.
- Machinery — points of operation, flywheels, gears, shafts, pulleys, key ways, belts, couplings, sprockets, chains, frames, controls, lighting for tools and equipment, brakes, exhausting, feeding, oiling, adjusting, maintenance, lockout/tagout, grounding, work space, location, purchasing standards.
- Personnel — training, including hazard identification training; experience; methods of checking machines before use; type of clothing; PPE; use of guards; tool storage; work practices; methods for cleaning, oiling, or adjusting machinery.
- Hand and Power Tools — purchasing standards, inspection, storage, repair, types, maintenance, grounding, use and handling.
- Chemicals — storage, handling, transportation, spills, disposals, amounts used, labeling, toxicity or other harmful effects, warning signs, supervision, training, protective clothing and equipment, hazard communication requirements.
- Fire Prevention — extinguishers, alarms, sprinklers, smoking rules, exits, personnel assigned, separation of flammable materials and dangerous operations, explosion-proof fixtures in hazardous locations, waste disposal and training of personnel.
- Maintenance — provide regular and preventive maintenance on all equipment used at the worksite, recording all work performed on the machinery and by training personnel on the proper care and servicing of the equipment.
- PPE — type, size, maintenance, repair, age, storage, assignment of responsibility, purchasing methods, standards observed, training in care and use, rules of use, method of assignment.
- Transportation — motor vehicle safety, seat belts, vehicle maintenance, safe driver programs.
- First Aid Program/Supplies — medical care facilities locations, posted emergency phone numbers, accessible first aid kits.
- Evacuation Plan — establish and practice procedures for an emergency evacuation, e.g., fire, chemical/biological incidents, bomb threat; include escape procedures and routes, critical plant operations, employee accounting following an evacuation, rescue and medical duties and ways to report emergencies.
Ideally, medium and large worksites will have more than one type of regular site inspections.
Many employers make it the supervisor's responsibility to inspect his/her work area at the beginning of every shift to ensure that equipment and personnel are ready to work safely.
This can be particularly helpful when other shifts use the same area and equipment or when after-hours maintenance and cleaning are routinely done. Supervisors' inspections of their own areas should not substitute, however, for broad general inspection. There are two reasons for this:
- Those who work in an area can start "not seeing" things that they get used to. It is always good to have cross-inspections where supervisors or employees from one area look at another area.
- A general site inspection will encompass areas not assigned to individual supervisors, for example, outdoor and other common areas.
OSHA recommends involving employees in the safety and health program, in both problem identification and resolution. One way to do this is to have the employee committee or the joint employee-management committee conduct routine inspections. By employing this method, you:
- Expand the number of people doing inspections, and therefore, improve the odds of finding hazards; and
- Increase employee awareness of the safety and health program.
It is most common and most logical for the staff personnel who specialize in safety and health to conduct the inspections. Even when other employees conduct inspections, it is wise also to involve the specialists. In a small business, the specialist may be the Human Resources Director or another member of management with many important duties in addition to safety and health. By having the safety and health staffer conduct inspections, you keep the person responsible for safety and health in touch with the successes and/or problems in the hazard prevention and control program, and use your greatest in-house source of expertise.