Safety Inspection Checklist: How to Save Time, Money, Stress, and Lives

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safety inspection checklist

When we think about humankind’s most life-changing inventions, the usual suspects are brought up.

The wheel.

Electricity.

The internet.

Unfortunately, checklists hardly ever make the cut.

But by using the humble checklist, we mere mortals are capable of incredible things.

Take the Keystone ICU Project as an example. Doctors and nurses working in Michigan’s ICUs were asked to document and then follow their all-important medical processes as checklists. Before which they hadn’t been using checklists at all, relying purely on memory and therefore forgetting crucial steps during life-and-death procedures.

The results of the project were astounding. Not only was $175,000,000 in costs saved by the participating hospitals during the experiment’s timespan, but more than 1,500 at-risk lives were saved. And all from ticking off a checklist with one’s hands, rather than mentally ticking off a misremembered checklist and fumbling the entire process.

It’s safe to say that in many areas, usable checklists are a massively useful and underappreciated tool. Especially when considering other on-the-ground work, such as manufacturing and construction, where dangerous machinery is being operated, or where employees could get seriously hurt.

That’s why, in this FAT FINGER blog post, I’ll tell you everything you need to know about one of the most important checklists of all — the safety inspection checklist. You’ll learn what safety inspection checklists are exactly, why they’re important, when to use them, the benefits of using them, and examples of real-world safety inspection checklists.

We’ll be looking at all of this in the following sections:

  • What is a Safety Inspection Checklist?
  • Why Safety Inspection Checklists (Always) Need to Be Used
  • The Workplace Benefits of Carrying Out Safety Inspections
  • 3 Common Safety Inspection Checklist Examples
  • Use FAT FINGER to Take Control of All Your Team’s Important Procedures with Checklists!

However, if you just wanted to get your hands on FAT FINGER’s professional, easy-to-use safety inspection checklist, take a look at it here. To get started, all you then need to do is copy and paste the already-written steps into a new app inside the FAT FINGER platform!

Easy, huh?

If you’re still reading, I presume you’re raring to get on with the rest of the post.

Let’s get started.

What is a Safety Inspection Checklist?

A safety inspection checklist is a set of repeatable steps that helps internal staff and external auditors to identify, monitor, and rectify workplace hazards. Safety inspection checklists are regularly used to actively mitigate issues that could cause employees harm, ensuring that hard-working folks will be kept safe on-site.

What’s important to keep in mind is that there’s no one-size-fits-all safety inspection checklist. For instance, a safety inspection checklist for a company only working in an office environment will wildly differ from a construction site’s safety inspection checklist.

Here’s why.

The office safety inspection checklist will cover ground related to evacuation (Are exits clearly marked and unobstructed?), electricity (When were electrical outlets last tested?), and fires (Are electrical sockets being overloaded? Are there notices informing staff of what to do if there’s a fire?).

Meanwhile, a safety inspection checklist for a construction site will place emphasis on tools (Is the appropriate equipment provided? Are the tools suitable and certified for usage?), PPE (Is high visibility clothing being used? Are PPE items worn or damaged?), and first aid (Do employees know where to go for first aid facilities? Do they know what to do once there?).

But it doesn’t end there. A construction site safety inspection checklist will, of course, also be different from a factory safety inspection checklist, or even a warehouse safety inspection checklist. There are countless variations out there. And the type of safety inspection checklist your team needs to use depends on the location you’re working at, the kind of industry you’re working in, and what’s being done on a day-to-day basis.

Despite there being a myriad of varying safety inspection checklists, they all have one goal in common: To protect people. While safety inspection checklists also make sure that equipment is up-to-scratch and the workplace environment is as clean and clear as possible, it’s preserving human life that’s at the core of any professional safety inspection checklist.

Why Safety Inspection Checklists (Always) Need to Be Used

Workplace injuries and accidents, whenever you hear about them, seem to happen to other people. Unfortunate folks working for other companies, in other states, or other countries.

Until it happens to somebody you know, that is.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ 2019 Workplace Injury Statistics, the number of non-fatal injuries per 100 full-time workers is 2.8. Out of this, 0.9 people per 100 full-time workers had to take days away from work, while 0.7 made a job transfer or suffered job restrictions because of the impact and toll of their non-fatal injuries.

Now, when looking at the above statistics, it could be easy to think “Sheesh, that’s rough. But the figure doesn’t seem all that large and 2.8 out of 100 doesn’t sound like many people.” So let’s try increasing those numbers in accordance with the number of manufacturing injuries reported.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Survey of Occupational Injuries & Illnesses shows that manufacturing comes in third in the 10 most dangerous occupations for workers. Specifically, 421,400 manufacturing workplace injuries took place in 2019 alone. And this is just one sector and is excluding figures about fatal injuries (of which industries like construction, warehousing, and transportation have the highest rates).

These are pretty sobering numbers, but they’re exactly that — numbers. Abstract numbers.

Instead of abstract numbers, it’s real-life stories that drive the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s ‘Young Workers’ campaign. It’s true that any employee at any given age can suffer an injury if their workplace surroundings or tools aren’t up to par. But hearing about a life-changing injury that somebody who’s only just started their career has suffered exemplifies how crucial workplace safety is. Especially when a large bulk of these injuries were and still are avoidable.

Take the anonymized 20-year-old whose middle finger was lost when cleaning a printing press that was near a rotating gear. If the machine wasn’t in operation and unlocked, the worker wouldn’t have had their finger caught and cut by the rotating press. There should’ve also been some kind of safeguarding device for hazard points. To boot, this was a training issue. If there was proper guidance given on how to clean equipment in a safe, secure manner that wouldn’t pose a threat to life and limb, I wouldn’t be using this example today.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration, then, advocates for safety measures across all industries (but particularly labor-intensive industries) being implemented, maintained, and reviewed in a thorough way, where no corners are cut. Once the implementation stage has been completed, it’s then that the safety inspection checklist has its chance to shine. By dedicating a small amount of time and effort to going through its steps and ticking items off once completed, all organizations can rest assured that the measures they’ve implemented are following safety standards, protocols, and laws.

With a firm idea of why safety inspection checklists need to be used, let’s go into a little more detail on that last point — who should actually be doing the safety inspections and when.

Who should be carrying out internal safety inspections — and how often?

Simply put, internal safety inspections need to happen regularly. Though, the frequency of inspections largely depends on the environment which is being assessed and the type of work that happens in that environment.

For low-risk environments such as a standard office for white-collar work, inspections can be every few months. Meanwhile, when assessing the safety of a large, busy construction site, it’s recommended that safety inspections take place on a weekly basis at least (and, ideally, daily or every few days).

But who performs these internal safety inspections, exactly?

Again, it depends on the environment and the work happening in that environment.

It could be the site manager, or it could be a small group of people involved in management and supervision. Either way, the person or people carrying out the inspections must have sufficient knowledge of safety practices and protocols, requisite training, and understanding. It’s not enough to hand any old employee a safety inspection checklist and ask them to complete it. That doesn’t help anyone, least of all the employees in question.

Speaking of help, here are a handful of tips on planning and carrying out inspections:

  • Don’t surprise your internal safety inspectors with on-the-day inspections — there should be a program and/or rota, so they know exactly when inspections should be undertaken and by whom.
  • Want to ensure inspections are completed thoroughly? Then assign more than one person for each inspection. Having more than one inspector increases accountability and that the process isn’t rushed. Plus, two pairs of eyes are always better than one.
  • If inspections repeatedly show improvements could be made but you or your team aren’t sure how to go about these next steps, consult safety advisors and specialists. Getting their experience and insight could save a whole lot of cash in the long run!

The Workplace Benefits of Using Safety Inspection Checklists

A safety inspection checklist doesn’t only help internal inspectors — and the team-at-large — to know that their workplace is up-to-scratch in terms of safety and security. It brings a ton of other monumental benefits, too.

Specifically:

  • Safety inspection checklists protect life and limb. ⛑ 
    Not to labor the point, but accidents at work cost. For the employee, there’s an impact on mental health, perhaps their careers, and even maybe their bodies. Implementing and then frequently using a safety inspection checklist means prioritizing employee safety, keeping accidents that could have grave consequences at bay. This is what’s at the heart of a safety inspection checklist.
  • Safety inspection checklists save money. 💸 
    When I said “accidents at work cost”, I meant it. For employers, not going about on-site safety in a proficient way that aligns with laws and safety protocols could result in financially costly legal battles. Especially if an employee is directly impacted by unsafe measures and practices.
  • Safety inspection checklists help teams clinch back time. ⏳
    Those who aren’t daily users of checklists may think that checklists slow workers and operations down — but this couldn’t be farther from the truth. The reality is that repeated use of checklists actually speeds things up. Checklist users become familiarized with the process they’re following, allowing them to tackle the process at hand far more efficiently and effectively. And we all want to clinch back time each day, don’t we?
  • Safety inspection checklists reduce the normalization of deviance. 🔍 
    
Simply put, the “normalization of deviance” is the act of employees seeing other employees cut corners and not do certain tasks properly, and then doing it themselves as they perceive that as acceptable. It’s extremely common in all types of workplace environments, but is particularly harmful when it comes to teams working in on-the-ground, labor-intensive environments. The good news, though, is that the safety inspection checklist enables inspectors to realize if/when others aren’t doing exactly as they should be. For example, if machine or equipment guarding hasn’t been put in place correctly, or if S/O cords aren’t wrapped up with conductive material.
  • Safety inspection checklists give employees the peace of mind they need. 🧠
    Workers shouldn’t have to worry about their safety when on the job — especially as the worry could be at the forefront of their mind, causing them to make a mistake and ironically leading to an accident. But if people know that others have set up the right safety measures and safeguards — and that they’re maintained and regularly reviewed, too — workers needn’t worry. They can go ahead and get on with what they do best without such thoughts weighing on them.

As is evident from the above points, the safety inspection checklist is far more than what it initially seems. The benefits of creating and then repeatedly using one are pervasive in an undoubtedly positive way. It helps your team, it helps you as an employer, and it improves workplace culture as a whole.

A win-win for everybody involved.

3 Common Safety Inspection Checklist Examples

With the definition of safety inspection checklist covered, and a thorough understanding of why safety inspection checklists are important for employees and employers, I’m sure you’re ready for the next steps: Getting to grips with what safety inspection checklists look like exactly, what forms they take, and how they’re presented.

So, let’s take a look at some examples of safety inspection checklists. Starting off with a checklist from the University of Missouri.

1. The University of Missouri’s EHS General Safety Inspection Checklist

The University of Missouri is a large institution. In fact, there’s more than 3,000 academic staff, over 13,000 administrative staff, and around 30,000 students. And seeing as there’s a high potential for injury on campus — for instance, student workers burning themselves on hot pipes while working in the shop or ceiling tiles falling off and hurting passers-by in the library’s corridors — a multi-step safety inspection checklist is absolutely necessary.

NFPA Life Safety Code 101 and is to be conducted by a safety representative (or assistant fire marshal) — covers everything you’d want it to in a university context.

This includes:

  • All general areas
  • Shops
  • Exits/corridors
  • Electrical
  • Emergency equipment
  • Fire protection
  • Compressed glass cylinders
  • Personal protective equipment
  • Railing/Elevated work areas
  • Ladders
  • Forklifts
  • Training
  • Computer rooms
  • And the grounds.

After noting down the building or department that’s being inspected, the date and time of inspection, and who the inspectors are, inspectors can easily tick the “Yes”, “No”, or “N/A” boxes to supply their answers. There’s then a comment box at the bottom of the checklist for the inspectors to note down why a certain element doesn’t meet normal safety standards and requirements. This then makes it incredibly easy to fix what needs to be fixed.

To take a glimpse yourself, check out the University of Missouri’s General Safety Inspection Checklist here.

2. The Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety’s Inspection Sample Checklist

Moving on from university campuses, here’s the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety’s Inspection Sample Checklist, which focuses on a safety inspection of the office. While this may be a sample checklist, sure, people will be using this out in the world to inspect their offices. After all, it’s been made and offered by one of Canada’s prime health and safety-focused organizations.

This particular checklist begins by requiring the person filling it out (which will, naturally, be one of the inspectors) to write down the names of the inspectors as well as the date. There’s then a key in the right-hand corner informing the inspectors how to fill out the checklist (i.e. “O” means satisfactory, and “X” means it requires action).

The areas that the inspectors then work through include:

  • Bullet boards and signs
  • Floors
  • Stairways and aisles
  • Equipment
  • Emergency equipment
  • Building
  • Air handling system
  • Hazardous products
  • Sanitation
  • Security
  • Lighting
  • And material storage.

As the inspectors work their way through these areas, they note down the location (i.e. for the “Are ladders well maintained and safe to use” task, the location could be the storage cupboard as that’s the only place where ladders are stored), the condition the objects they’re looking at are in (then writing either “O” or “X”), in addition to any extra comments that need to be made.

Comparatively, and in terms of sheer effectiveness, the University of Missouri’s General Safety Inspection Checklist provides more space for comments. If the inspector needs to write a somewhat lengthy comment about why some exit doors are obstructed, let’s say, then inspectors have the ability to do that. Meanwhile, in the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety’s Inspection Sample Checklist, there’s only a small box to write comments — hardly more than a few words, really — inside. What’s more is that the “X” and “O” symbols may get confusing for inspectors. Why not simply use a tick instead of an O?

That being said, the office inspection checklist does contain a thorough set of tasks. No area, item, or object is left unturned, making it a successful checklist in terms of rigor and comprehensiveness. If your team needs an office checklist rather than a general safety inspection checklist that takes tasks related to PPE, equipment, machinery, and the like into account, then take some inspiration from this checklist.

Take a look at the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety’s Inspection Sample Checklist here.

3. FAT FINGER’s Safety Inspection Checklist

Click here to get access to FAT FINGER’S Safety Inspection Checklist.

FAT FINGER’s Safety Inspection Checklist has been specifically designed to work with the easy-to-use FAT FINGER platform.

In terms of definition, this checklist is a general-purpose checklist for teams working on-site. It places an emphasis on ensuring heavy-duty equipment is safeguarded and in good repair, while also making sure that things like emergency and exit lighting are in working order, too. Basically, it’s a perfect all-rounder.

Here’s what the checklist covers in full:

  • Machine/Equipment safeguarding
  • Drain covers
  • Equipment switches and disconnects
  • Emergency stop buttons/controls
  • Saws/Power equipment
  • Limit/Proximity switches
  • Control/Electrical panels
  • Tools
  • Employee workstations
  • Environmental health and safety chains/cables
  • Stairs, railings, and guardrails
  • Outlets
  • Conveyors and augers
  • S/O cords
  • Emergency/Exit lighting
  • Fire extinguishers
  • Eyewash/Drench showers
  • And general housekeeping.

Then, when the main tasks have been worked through, there are some final steps to make sure that not only has the checklist been covered in a professional manner, but also that corrective actions do indeed happen, so any issues can be resolved.

Specifically, these final tasks include:

  • Noting down any other notable unsafe conditions
  • Reviewing the checklist
  • Talking with a supervisor about the inspection
  • Reviewing correction action recommendations
  • Signing the checklist as the auditor
  • Uploading the auditor’s signature
  • Signing the checklist as the reviewer/supervisor
  • And uploading the reviewer/supervisor’s signature.

Now, the major difference between this checklist and the previous two is perhaps the most obvious: It’s a digital checklist. It’s not meant to be printed out and filled out with a pen or pencil, but has been designed to be used primarily on mobile devices. And there’s no denying that this digital checklist has the upper hand.

Firstly, it won’t get stuffed into the back of a cupboard and forgotten about as paper versions do. There’s always a saved version — and it’s easy to access, as well.

Secondly, having a digital checklist in the palm of your hands means you’re able to do a whole lot more. That particular drain cover that isn’t in place? Don’t just describe it with text; take a picture and include it as a part of your findings. The essential data that’s been collected from the inspection? Export it into Excel or via API and integrations after it’s been reviewed and approved.

That being said, not all digital checklists are this innovative nor as simple-to-use. It’s only by using FAT FINGER that hard-working teams without the IT know-how can harness the power of modern-day tech in a way that’ll dramatically improve their day-to-day operations.

Here’s how FAT FINGER works — and why FAT FINGER will change everything.

Use FAT FINGER to Take Control of All Your Team’s Important Procedures with Checklists!

FAT FINGER is a software platform that enables teams to digitize their essential procedures, workflows, inspections, and overall operations.

We’ve created the platform — in which teams work through their procedures via ‘apps’ (checklists) — so quality, safety, and efficiency in the workplace can be improved easily. And we’ve ensured our tech is super simple, meaning just about anybody can get to grips with it in minutes — even those with fat fingers themselves!

For an explainer of how FAT FINGER works, check out this video.

By using FAT FINGER, teams have reported that 83% resolve workplace risks faster, 85% say there’s been an increase in team accountability, and 60% say their workplaces have been made safer, thanks to the FAT FINGER platform and the apps they’ve been using on it.

But how does the platform itself work, exactly?

It’s simple.

First, sign up for free here.

Once you’ve made an account, click on the apps tab to look through the plethora of already-built apps you and the rest of your team can use right away. You can edit them to suit your team’s unique needs, or you can create your very own apps from scratch!

Seeing as you’re able to include elements such as text, digital signatures, locations, date/time, and much, much more, the apps you make can be truly fit for purpose. And the drag and drop app editor makes all of this painless.

To help you with your first few apps, why not check out these best practice tips from James McDonough, the founder and CEO of FAT FINGER?

When you’ve got the hang of the basics, you’re then able to use FAT FINGER to its full potential. View real-time dashboards to look at relevant data; generate professional-looking reports instantly, video call and chat with team members whenever they need assistance, and even coach employees with FAT FINGER’s innovative Ai-Coach.

That’s FAT FINGER.

Ready to get your hands on it?

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