When I visit a client’s facility or job site, the first thing I look for and ask is “Are the employees working safely?” After that, I start to look for a wide list of hazards that can lead to injuries and other OSHA violations. Companies regardless of the size or industry need to have regular site safety inspections. This can be best accomplished by using site-specific checklists to keep the workplace safe by identifying and correcting hazards that may exist. The type of Inspection and frequency depends on the hazard level of the workplace. Some sites may need checks at every shift, daily, quarterly or annually. It is very important to document the inspection observations, identified hazards, and the list of corrective actions taken.
After looking for employees safety hazards and correcting them, then focus on the administrative records and postings at the workplace. SDS binders, safety programs, procedures, training, and records need to be up to date and accurate. When dealing with OSHA, if the training or procedures are not documented, then you can’t prove it. Critical procedures (e.g. Spill Cleanup, Emergency Evacuation Plans, First Aid Guidelines) should be posted in prominent locations. Required employer postings (e.g. OSHA, Workers Compensation, and labor law) must be “likely to be seen” by employees. These can be placed in break rooms, near a punch clock, or even at the trailer on the job site.
Floor surfaces should be clean and free of slip and trip hazards such as dirt, granular substances, equipment parts, water, or oil. Wet surfaces should be covered with non-slip materials. Holes in the floor, sidewalk, carpet, or other walking surface should be repaired properly, covered, or barricaded from foot traffic. Conditions on the job site or workplace can change quickly so make sure a plan is in place to address who is responsible for what duties and everyone knows who to contact to address these issues. It’s important to eliminate the 2nd leading cause of workplace accidents.
Good housekeeping is a critical part of all workplaces. Materials and debris should be kept up off floors and out of walkways. Stored items need to be stacked properly on shelving units firmly secured to the wall. When using a shelving system, heavier items should be on the bottom and lighter items stored on top shelves. This eliminates unnecessary strain and injuries. Heavier items should be lifted using a “buddy system”. Items stored on tops shelves require 18” clearance from fire sprinkler systems and unsecured stacks on floors should not exceed 72” in height to avoid any “caught by” or struck by” injuries.
Employees need enough space to move around the workplace. Aisles and walkways need 36” clearance in an office setting, and 44” in a shipping area. Clearly mark emergency exits so they can be seen from any point in the facility and exit routes must be clearly identified to lead people to the proper exits. In a facility where all doors have the same appearance, label doors that are not exits “NOT AN EXIT” to avoid confusion. Keep exits doors and pathways clear of stacked material and other impediments. You should never store flammables near an exit door and always check to make sure exit doors are not blocked from the outside.
When working with electricity, power cords to equipment and tools should be in good shape. Replace frayed extension cords (never use electrical tape) and those with missing ground plugs. Check that extension cords do not cross walkways, or go through holes on the wall or floor. These should be used as temporary power sources and never fixed sources. Install additional power outlets if extension cords are necessary for long term use to eliminate cords that are “daisy chained”. Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter (GFCI) outlets should be installed around wet areas. Another over looked rules is that electric panels should have 36” clearance in front, so try not to stack materials where they can block access to them.
Ensure your equipment and tools are in good working order, tag defective equipment, and take them out of service. Check that machine guards and protective coverings are in place before being used. It’s a good idea to revisit how your chemicals are stored frequently. As with most companies, employees don’t always put items back in the proper place. Make sure your chemicals are being stored with other compatible or like chemicals. Flammables should always be kept in a secured flammable cabinet and stored away from heat sources.
Site safety inspections keep the workplace safe. It’s up to everyone to look out for their co-workers. If a hazard is left uncorrected, it can lead to accidents and injuries. If you would like more information or to schedule a safety inspection, please contact our Safety Division, Roberts Risk Management.
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