1. Prepare before the investigation itself
Getting the most out of every walk-around starts with what you do before the actual inspection. Take these steps prior to the walk-around, where applicable to your organization:
- Do your research on the workplace, the culture, operations, and safety activities on-site or for the organization. It doesn’t need to limit your walk-around, but be aware of the hazardous tasks and activities on-site.
- Carefully go over past hazards that have been identified and any other safety data you have available to you from recent months and years. More specifically, when you can, review prior inspection reports, injury records, near-miss incidents that have recently occurred, or any incident investigation reports.
- Sit in on a safety meeting or even a safety huddle.
- Utilize past inspection checklists and research relevant checklists available to you from sources like OSHA or trade-specific sites. Modify them as needed to your workplace (1).
2. Show up in the right PPE
It may seem like an inconvenience at first if you have to go out of your way to do so, but remember the importance of showing up with the right PPE. If not, you risk setting the wrong example. Having the necessary PPE and following the right protocols on-site is necessary so that you continue to lead by example and so that you continue to keep the trust of all those on-site (1).
3. Tap the knowledge of your workers
Don’t make the mistake of treating a walk-around as an inspection where you just need to get through a pre-determined checklist. Do your best to always talk to people on-site. If your walk-around is when you have the chance to sit-in on a safety meeting, take advantage of that time. It’s not about blaming or finding fault, it’s about information-seeking so everyone can benefit and so that hazards and be eliminated. Make sure they know you’ve adopted a learning posture with your questions and conversation (1). Gauge the climate of safety and culture, too. Workers’ candid responses and answers ought to be a continued source of ways you can reduce risks that lead to injuries, illnesses, and fatalities.
4. Create a regular cadence
Every organization will have a different cadence that’s right for them, but develop a consistent cadence for your walk-arounds. That can help you hold yourself (or someone else) accountable. Having a very regular cadence can also work against complacency over time. Workers may not know when you’re coming, but they’ll know that regular walk-arounds are the norm in your culture, and that they should be anticipated. Hopefully, they can look forward to the walk-arounds; over time, they should be able to feel comfortable with opening up to you about how they see the state of safety in the company, if they don’t already feel that way today (1).
5. Follow-up…every time
Post walk-around, put the information to use in a timely manner. That means prioritizing hazards and working on reducing and minimizing them based on the severity of potential injury (1). When you’re able, make sure any corrective actions also have a timeline attached to them to be sure they are addressed and brought to a timely and successful closure. Don’t neglect to communicate what you found, or what’s happening, either. All your workers who are engaged and involved in safety will want to know what’s happening—and why; make sure that information is visible to them. Since you want people involved and engaged in safety, do your best to share that information with them. Not only do you want to communicate hazards and how they are being handled with your workers, but make sure that information is also made visible to management. They need to see what you’re doing each day, but they also need to understand why these areas need to receive continued resources and investment (1).
Get the Most Out of Your Walk-Arounds for Safety
All in all, a safety officer’s walk-around is much more than merely going through a checklist. An inspection is great opportunity to drastically reduce or eliminate risk, measure the climate of safety, and it gives you a real-time opportunity to engage with workers in terms of their health and safety. Not to be forgotten, it is also is one more way you can show management (and frontline workers) all you’re doing in terms of improving and investing in safety.
See How iReportSource Can Improve Your Walk-Arounds
With iReportSource Safety Walks, you can easily:
- Identify and electronically record each safety issue you find
- Assign corrective actions and get notified when it’s not done (and when it’s done!)
- Send reminders and set deadlines for your workers to help hold them accountable
- Share any and all learnings with your organization—whether that be with management or frontline workers
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