A Case for Documenting Worksite Safety Inspections

The Importance of OSHA Mandates

— Steve Polich, CSP

OSHA mandates that workers should never be required to work under conditions that are dangerous to their health or safety. They further require that an employer’s Injury and Illness Prevention Program must provide for “frequent and regular inspections of the job site” [reference 29 CFR 1926.20(b)(2)].

Contractors must ask themselves if they are properly completing OSHA required frequent and regular inspections of their respective job sites. In my 13 years doing safety audits for numerous contractors, my observation is that it is surprisingly uncommon for contractors to routinely schedule inspections, let alone document them. When asked, they will tell you that their foremen or superintendents visually inspect the work site daily, but they are not always being documented. A common quote among SH&E professionals is “if it ain’t in writing, it ain’t been done” certainly applies here. Documentation is important!

To understand why some contractors have not implemented a formal system to document safety inspections, it may be helpful to consider H.W. Heinrich’s classic Safety Pyramid. Heinrich theorizes that for every serious accident, there are 29 minor accidents preceded by 300 incidents. If you expand this point a step further, one may reasonably conclude that for every 300 incidents there are 3,000 unsafe acts or unsafe conditions that occur in the workplace. It is well documented that the root cause of accidents, as much as 90 percent of more, is the result of “unsafe acts” not “unsafe conditions”.

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