Workplaces differ from each other; therefore, the way they conduct inspections and observations will vary. Regarding scheduling, some workplaces require daily and pre-operational inspections, while others perform inspections and observations only periodically. Workplace policies and regulations play a huge role into the chosen frequency. Other factors that influence the methodology chosen for performing inspections and observations include the structure of the workplace, the type of service provided, and the level of hazards involved. It is also important to remember that one of the desired outcomes of an inspection and observation program is continuous improvement/learning. The way to achieve this result is for inspections and observations to be carried out systematically. However, once an approach has been chosen and the assessment has been completed, what’s next?
Write a report detailing the approach that was adopted, including the following action points:
- Inspection Details (e.g., Location, Date, Conditions, etc.)
- List of Hazards
- Preventive Action Plan
- Corrective Action Plan
Using a productive inspections and observations platform with customizable checklists and reports allows for ease in capturing and exporting these essential details. When listing out observed issues in the report, it is best for these observations to have data (images, GPS coordinates, audio recordings, etc.) presented in an easy-to-understand format. A cloud-based inspections platform’s offline capability and mobile accessibility extends flexibility to this part of compiling reports. Additionally, a robust inspection and observation platform’s ability to track corrective actions in realtime makes assigning and adjusting these assignments easier. Listing each hazard with the most viable corrective action plan and suggested completion date is the most straightforward way to organize such information, making the document digestible and accessible to policy makers, management, or workers. An effectively applied inspections and observations program is the means to sustained workplace productivity and growth (Howard and Hearl, 2012.)
As inspections and observations are a team effort, all contributing members should review the report to ensure it is a true reflection of their efforts and observations. Employees should engage in the review to make sure there are no inconsistencies in data collection and presentation, exaggerated or underrated hazards, impracticable correction plans, or overdue completion dates. The team should look out for anything that could tamper with the integrity of their report. With an effective platform, team leads can mandate electronic signatures from team members to keep on top of review participation. Schedules and reminder notifications for reviews can also be effortlessly communicated.
While compiling current reports, it is necessary to have context for observations made. Considering past reports will help ensure that no previously prescribed corrective action was missed and no hazard was left unaddressed. Including data from older reports can also reveal trends for more effective risk management. Given that the intent behind inspections and observations is to achieve continuous improvement, recurring trends can be dealt with by applying the principles of the PDCA Cycle. An inspections and observations software platform compiles data from all previous inspections, making it simple to access for verified users. Then, when displayed with a digital dashboard, relevant trends can be more easily identified and actions/training created to address them.
When the report has been written and reviewed, the next step is communicating this information to the appropriate parties. An effective inspections and observations platform is designed with the entire process in mind, including methods for post-inspection communication. One of the benefits of using a cloud-based inspections and observations module is the ability to utilize native applications that perform on Android and iOS, for easy access from phones or tablets. This makes a much simpler process of recording data, digitally exporting the report, and accessing the follow-up information through secure emails and notifications.
The best reward for a well-planned and executed inspections and observations process would be a sterling, accurate, and report-ready finish. Prompt data gathering, processing, and follow through (with corrective actions implemented as soon as possible) is ideal for forestalling any incidents from hazardous situations. A “whole picture” approach also take into consideration the factors of sustainability, productivity, and potential for growth. Implementing a comprehensive inspections and observations software platform can assist every aspect of the entire “What’s Next?” process. Features such as customized checklists create ease in compiling and submitting reports. Tools like dashboards can help with data analysis. The processes of assigning, reviewing, tracking in real-time, and communicating preventive and corrective actions are all made extremely efficient when coordinated through a single, secure, and fully-integrated platform.
Howard, J. & Hearl, F. (2012). Occupational Safety and Health in the USA: Now and the Future. Industrial Health. 50. 80-3. doi: 10.2486/indhealth.ms1356. PMID: 22498727.
United States Department of Labor. (2010, April 27). Field Operations Manual: Chapter 3 INSPECTION PROCEDURES. Occupational Safety and Health Administration. https://www.osha.gov/enforcement/directives/cpl-02-00-164/chapter-3
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