Effective Workplace Inspections

Why are workplace inspections important?

Workplace inspections help prevent injuries and illnesses. Through critical examination of the workplace, inspections identify and record hazards for corrective action. Joint occupational health and safety committees plan, conduct, report and monitor inspections. Regular workplace inspections are an important part of the overall occupational health and safety program.

What is the purpose of inspections?

As an essential part of a health and safety program, a company should examine the workplace to:

  • listen to the concerns of workers and supervisors
  • gain further understanding of jobs and tasks
  • identify existing and potential hazards
  • determine underlying causes of hazards
  • monitor hazard controls (personal protective equipment, engineering controls, policies, procedures)
  • recommend corrective action

Workplace Elements

Look at all workplace elements – the environment, the equipment and the process. The environment includes such hazards as noise, vibration, lighting, temperature, and ventilation. Equipment includes materials, tools and apparatus for producing a product or a service. The process involves how the worker interacts with the other elements in a series of tasks or operations.

What types of hazards do we look for in a workplace?

Types of workplace hazards include:

  • Safety hazards; e.g., inadequate machine guards, unsafe workplace conditions, unsafe work practices.
  • Biological hazards caused by organisms such as viruses, bacteria, fungi and parasites.
  • Chemical hazards caused by a solid, liquid, vapour, gas, dust, fume or mist.
  • Ergonomic hazards caused by anatomical, physiological, and psychological demands on the worker, such as repetitive and forceful movements, vibration, temperature extremes, and awkward postures arising from improper work methods and improperly designed workstations, tools, and equipment.
  • Physical hazards caused by noise, vibration, energy, weather, heat, cold, electricity, radiation and pressure.


Inspection records are important. Past inspection records show what has been identified. They also show what an inspection team concentrated on and what areas it did not inspect. The inspection report can draw attention to possible hazards. However, do not simply repeat or copy previous inspections. Use the inspection report to determine whether previous recommendations were implemented.

Are there other types of inspection reports that may be useful?

The following describes three other types of inspection reports:

  • Ongoing
  • Pre-operation
  • Periodic

Supervisors and workers continually conduct ongoing inspections as part of their job responsibilities. Such inspections identify hazardous conditions and either correct them immediately or report them for corrective action. The frequency of these inspections varies with the amount and conditions of equipment use. Daily checks by users assure that the equipment meets minimum acceptable safety requirements.

Pre-operation checks involve inspections of new or modified equipment or processes. Often these are done after workplace shutdowns.

Periodic inspections are regular, planned inspections of the critical components of equipment or systems that have a high potential for causing serious injury or illness. The inspections are often part of preventive maintenance procedures or hazard control programs. The law specifies that qualified persons periodically inspect some types of equipment, such as elevators, boilers, pressure vessels, and fire extinguishers, at regular intervals.


The health and safety committee should review the progress of the recommendations, especially when they pertain to the education and training of employees. It is also the committee’s responsibility to study the information from regular inspections. This will help in identifying trends for the maintenance of an effective health and safety program.

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