Safety Inspection is Primary Tools of the Safety Specialist

Inspection was and is one of the primary tools of the safety specialist. Be-fore 1931 it was virtually the only tool, and from 1931 to 1945 it was still the one most used. Until 1960 it was the primary tool of many outside service agencies, and even today it remains the primary (and sometimes the only) tool of some safety men.

Today, however, I believe that one key question should be asked by every safety man engaged in inspection: “Why am I inspecting?” The answers to that question dictate how, when, and where to inspect. For instance, if we are inspecting to unearth physical hazards only, we will look only at things. If, however, we are inspecting to find both physical hazards and unsafe acts, we will also look at people. Unfortunately, most inspections today are of the former kind, rather than the latter.

If our intent is to detect hazards only, we can immediately have them corrected by going directly to the maintenance department and reporting any deficiencies. If our intent is to audit the supervisor’s inspection, we will use what we find to instruct him —to coach him to improve his future inspections.

Many articles have been written on safety inspections, and many have asked the question:

“Why inspect?” Some typical answers have been:

1.    To check the results against the plan
2.    To reawaken interest in safety
3.    To reevaluate safety standards
4.    To teach safety by example
5.    To display the supervisor’s sincerity about safety
6.    To detect and reactivate unfinished business
7.    To collect data for meetings
8.    To note and act upon unsafe behavior trends
9.    To reach first-hand agreement with the responsible parties
10.    To improve safety standards
11.    To check new facilities
12.    To solicit the supervisor’s help
13.    To spot conditions
The single most important reason for making inspections is seldom mentioned. It is:
14.    To measure the supervisor’s performance in safety

Perhaps if the line manager felt that this were the primary purpose for management’s inspection, he might do a better job of making sure that nothing amiss could be found in his department.

If inspection is used as a measurement tool of accountability, the line manager will start inspecting more often himself, to ensure that conditions remain safe and that fewer unsafe acts are being performed. He will not wait until the safety specialist comes around to do the inspection job for him.

Who Is Responsible for Inspection?

It is generally agreed that the responsibility for conditions and for people is the line supervisor’s. Thus responsibility for the primary safety inspection must also be assigned to him. By “primary safety inspection” we mean the inspection intended to locate hazards. Any inspections performed by staff specialists then should be only for the purpose of auditing the supervisor’s effectiveness. Hence the results of our inspection become a direct measurement of his safety performance —his effectiveness

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