The safety and health of people at work, is the most important element of anything we do in business. But ensuring the health and well-being of employees is not just a moral obligation but a legal requirement under the Work Health and Safety Act and Regulations. Workplace safety inspections are a fundamental tool in fulfilling these obligations and safeguarding employees’ physical and mental health.
The Work Health and Safety Act
The Work Health and Safety Act (WHS Act) is the legislation governing workplace health and safety. The model WHS Act provides a balanced, nationally consistent framework, by ensuring the protection of workers and others from harm, requiring businesses to eliminate or reduce risks.
Under the WHS Act, employers must take reasonable steps to ensure the safety of their workers. This involves identifying potential hazards, assessing the associated risks, and implementing control measures to mitigate those risks. Regular workplace safety inspections are one way that employers can achieve compliance in this area and are a critical component of this process.
Workplace inspections go by various names including workplace inspection, hazard identification checklist, or safety inspection etc.
What is a workplace safety inspection?
A ‘workplace safety inspection’ is a process whereby the work environment is assessed for hazards. A checklist document is used to complete the task, usually on a routine basis (frequency depends on what is determined as required, in low risk environments, it may be every 3 months, in higher risk areas, it could be monthly).
The inspection checklist should be tailored to the workplace, so that specific workplace items or areas are included on the form, for example, if a childcare centre has a playground, they may use a generic checklist, but add on a playground section, to ensure that area and it’s equipment/spaces are also checked.
On the scheduled date, the person conducting the inspection would have a document/form (the Workplace Inspection Checklist) which has a number of items listed to check. The inspection checklist will have 3 answers available, yes, no, or N/A.
For example, a line on the checklist may look like:
- Are all the locks on the windows and doors in good working order? Yes / No / N/A.
When a checklist is complete, the process usually requires the worker who conducted the inspection to submit the form to a manager. Once the manager assessed the form, they should arrange for any hazards to be rectified where possible, and if there are longer term issues, enter them into the company hazard register, or enter a hazard report in the safety system.
When there are ongoing hazards, or patterns of hazards (e.g. workplace participants leaving spills on the floor), management should consult with the relevant workers and ensure safety issues including hazard rectification plans are agreed on.
The importance of workplace safety inspections
Workplace safety inspections are systematic assessments of a workplace’s safety conditions, practices, and procedures. They serve as a proactive approach to identifying hazards, assessing risks, and implementing necessary safety measures. Workplace safety inspections can be beneficial to:
- Prevent Accidents and Injuries: Workplace safety inspections help identify hazards that may lead to accidents or injuries. By identifying these risks early, employers can take corrective actions to prevent accidents and protect the well-being of their employees.
- Comply with WHS law: The WHS Act requires employers to ensure the health and safety of their workers. Regular inspections are a tangible way to demonstrate compliance with this legal requirement. Failure to do so can result in substantial penalties and fines.
- Improve Employee Morale: A safe and healthy work environment is conducive to high employee morale and job satisfaction. Workers who feel safe at their workplace are more likely to be engaged and productive. Involving workers in the inspection process can also help build a safety culture as well as provide a fresh set of eyes to identify any hazards.
- Reduce Costs: Workplace accidents and injuries can result in substantial financial costs for employers, including workers’ compensation claims and medical expenses. Conducting safety inspections can help prevent these costly incidents.
Conducting effective workplace safety inspections
The effectiveness of safety inspections depends on thoroughness, consistency, and commitment from leadership and workers to undertake the inspections on time. Here are some key steps to conducting effective safety inspections:
- Design a workplace safety inspection plan/procedure and frequency: The business may develop a simple Workplace Inspection Procedure, which lists the process, frequency, responsibilities. Workers should be consulted on the development of this procedure.
- Create a Workplace Safety Inspection Schedule: This could be a simple table, listing the month/s for inspections to be completed, and who will complete them. It is recommended that different workers have turns at conducting the inspections, to help with hazard identification and engagement.
- Identify hazards and risks: During inspections, identify potential hazards and assess the associated risks. Common hazards include unsafe equipment, hazardous substances, poor ergonomics, and inadequate safety signage.
- Documentation: Document the inspection process, including maintaining the inspection checklists and any findings, observations, and recommendations for corrective actions. This documentation serves as evidence of compliance with WHS legislation.
- Prioritise and mitigate risks: Prioritise the identified risks based on severity and likelihood. Implement control measures to mitigate these risks, which may include engineering controls, isolation, substitution, administrative controls, and personal protective equipment.
- Follow Up: Ensure that corrective actions are implemented in a timely manner and that they effectively address the identified hazards. Follow up on the progress and track improvements.
The consequences of non-compliance
Non-compliance with the Work Health and Safety Act and Regulations can have severe consequences for employers. Penalties for breaches of safety regulations can include hefty personal and organisational prosecutions. Additionally, failing to ensure a safe workplace can lead to devastating accidents, injuries, and long-term health issues for employees.
Workplace safety inspections are a simple, easy way to undertake hazard identification duties.
Workplace safety inspections form part of a standard safety management system as one of the elements of controlling hazards and risks in the workplace. Workplace Safety Inspections cannot be relied on their own as the sole hazard identification mechanism, they should be combined with other hazard identification methods such as toolbox talks, safety audits etc.
If you would like any support in relation to your work health and safety system, including workplace safety inspections please contact Evolve Safety.
About Employment Innovations
Employment Innovations is one of Australia’s leading providers of employment services designed to increase productivity and ensure compliance. Its services and solutions include all the tools that every Australian small to medium sized employer needs – including workplace advice, workplace safety, legal services, payroll solutions, migration, human resource management and HR software.
The information provided in these blog articles is general in nature and is not intended to substitute for professional advice. If you are unsure about how this information applies to your specific situation we recommend you contact Employment Innovations for advice.