How the Joint Health & Safety Committee Should Conduct Workplace Inspections

Workplace inspections are one of the primary functions of the Joint Health and Safety Committee (JHSC). Under the Occupational Health and Safety Act, s.9(23), the JHSC must designate a worker member to inspect the workplace. If possible, the worker should be a certified member of the JHSC (i.e., they’ve completed their JHSC Part 1 and Part 2 training, s.9(24)). The worker member must inspect the physical condition of the workplace at least once a month (s.9(26)).

The purpose of the monthly inspection is to identify hazards and monitor current work practices to ensure the safety of all workers. Workplace inspections determine:

  • If a hazard is present
  • Which workers are exposed or likely to be exposed
  • Any workers who have been subject to illness or injury
  • If established health and safety procedures and processes are being followed

In this four-part series, we will be examining the four stages of a workplace inspection:

  1. Preparation
  2. Inspection
  3. Reporting
  4. Follow-up

In case you missed it, here is the Part 1 of the four-part series: How the Joint Health & Safety Committee Should Prepare for Workplace Inspections

Part 2: Conducting the Inspection

There are three major components of the actual physical workplace inspection that must be undertaken during every inspection of the workplace. They are:

  • Talking to workers
  • Making observations
  • Recording observations and documenting findings on an inspection checklist

To ensure that inspections are conducted in an efficient, well-organized, and timely fashion, pre-determine an appropriate number of employees to talk to, ensuring that you get an adequate sample from different departments and/or work areas. Have a notebook or paper and clipboard on hand for taking notes during conversations, and note any pertinent observations. Use a standard customized inspection checklist to keep you on track and to ensure no items are forgotten or overlooked.

Talking to Workers

Talking to workers is an integral part of the workplace inspection, because workers are familiar with the area and the work processes, so they can help you to identify hazards that may not be listed on the checklist. They may also be able to help you determine if a condition is typical or not. For example, if a work area seems unreasonably warm, workers from that area may confirm that yes, it is always that warm. Or, they may indicate that a cooling unit has recently broken down. It may already be scheduled for repair. If it isn’t, it may be something that you recommend at the conclusion of the inspection.

Talking to workers will also indicate training gaps or areas where training can be used to reinforce safe practices. Be sure to focus on both new and seasoned workers when trying to determine is training is up-to-date. If workers bring forward issues or concerns, be sure to pay careful attention the source of their distress. Inspect it, ask questions, and make any applicable recommendations.

Making Observations

As you inspect the workplace and work through your checklist items, make general observations. Are there new hazards that have yet to be identified? If so, make note and add them to the checklist. Observation also allows for the evaluation of already implemented controls and safe work practices to determine if they ware working as intended, and without inadvertently creating new hazards.

Using an Inspection Checklist

A checklist provides focus, and clarifies inspection items. It also helps to ensure nothing is missed. The checklist you use should be standardized (i.e.: the same for each monthly inspection), but also customized (i.e.: incudes items specific to your workplace).

The most effective checklists are laid out by area. Within each area, there should be a list of items – preferably in the logical order in which you will inspect them. For each item, there should be a column to indicate YES or NO. A checkmark in the YES column would indicate that the item passes inspection. A checkmark in the NO column indicates the item does not pass inspection, and that a recommendation needs to be made.

Include a third column where hazards or additional comments can be noted. If you do spot a hazard, be sure to write down the location, the time of day or shift, and any other applicable details. Additional comments can include notes or ideas for recommended controls if they are apparent immediately. Recommendations for controls don’t have to be noted on inspection checklists – they can be determined during meetings as well.

JHSC workplace inspectors that talk to workers, make observations, and use standard customized checklists will find the task of completing an inspection enjoyable, productive, and useful. Using a proper and well-laid out checklist will lend itself to better hazard identification, which has the potential to prevent an injury or save a life.

To help you prepare your own customized workplace inspection checklist, OSG is giving you a FREE workplace inspection template. It’s an excellent starting point, and is fully customizable, so you can use it to create a workplace inspection checklist that meets the unique needs of your workplace.

Download your FREE workplace inspection checklist template now!

Workplace Inspection Checklist

Keep your eye on your email for Part 3 of 4, coming next month, when we will discuss reporting.

OSG Has Been Certifying JHSC Members For Over 20 Years

If you have questions about how the JHSC should conduct inspections, or how to identify common hazards in the workplace, OSG can help. We have been successfully training JHSC members for over 20 years, and we are the largest private provider of JHSC committee certification training in Ontario. When it comes to JHSC – we know our stuff! Call 1.800.815.9980 to speak to one of our health and safety experts today, or view our JHSC Part 1 or Part 2 training online now.

Written by Jennifer Miller | Curriculum Development Coordinator


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