Most employers require their employees to conduct safety inspections and document their findings. How confident can you be that the data they provide is accurate? Are you happy when report after report comes in with a 100 percent compliance score? Are you satisfied just getting a completed inspection on file? Does accuracy matter?
Keep in mind that it’s human nature to want to take the path of least resistance. So, when doing an inspection, if checking off the boxes gets you through the process quickly, and no one questions your findings, then checking boxes is what you get, with very little consideration for accuracy.
This process is commonly referred to as Pencil Whipping. According to wiktionary.org this is the process of completing a form, record, or document without having performed the implied work or without supporting data or evidence.
The origin of pencil whipping comes from the idea that you are filling out forms so fast making up the data that the end of your pencil is whipping in the air.
Pencil whipping is bad on multiple fronts. But the main issue is this, if employees are pencil whipping their inspections, you are likely not getting an accurate picture of the hazards in the workplace. The old saying, garbage in, garbage out comes to mind when referring to pencil-whipping. For self-inspections to be of any value, they need to be an accurate reflection of workplace hazards. You need to make sure they are not being pencil whipped.
So, what are some simple steps to help prevent this…?
1.Train employees on how to identify potential hazards. Don’t assume they know.
2. Provide a simple checklist for them to use. This helps to keep the inspection focused and on task.
3. Track their findings and look for employees who consistently score 100 percent on their self-inspections. We know worksites are dynamic and if inspections are done right, hazards will be found. No worksite is perfect and inspections that show otherwise, should be scrutinized.
4. Avoid critical reactions when negatives are identified. In other words, don’t focus on the negative. Instead, show appreciation for identifying a potential hazard and helping to reduce risk.
In short, if employers don’t take safety inspections seriously, employees won’t either and pencil whipping will become the norm.