Safety forms don’t need to be good for themselves. You will not see a safety inspection form in a museum as a work of art. You will, however, see the effect of a good safety form on a worksite with zero accidents. But besides the desired outcomes, what makes a good safety inspection form?
If a safety form is not thorough, it is not useful. Safety protocols exist for a reason, and without them, things can go wrong. According to the Transportation Safety Board of Canada, for example, the tragedy at Lac-Mégantic in 2013 was preventable with a more thorough check and follow-through of safety regulations and concerns.
If a safety inspection form is unclear, is impractical, or un-auditable, it is difficult to see causes and effects of the different aspects of an inspection. A thorough safety form will collect data from all points required, and will make certain that human error is not allowed to happen. Required questions, and places for notes creates an ease of use that enables field techs doing inspections to worry more about the inspection itself than the paperwork.
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A picture is worth a thousand words, and if you can include them in a safety inspection, all the better. Requiring photographic confirmation of a required setting – breaks on, electricity off, etc. – means that there is always more than one pair of eyes in the field. Checking and double checking is worth the time when the safety of your team and others is at stake.
There are some things you can’t take pictures of, and for that there is audio. If a piece of machinery is discovered to be making strange noises, “it’s making a kathunk-kathunk-whee sound” just doesn’t cut it when doing off-site diagnostics. Being able to forward important audio data provides an extra level of depth to a safety inspection.
Whether it is to be able to view patterns in near-misses, or it’s to prove compliance, a safety form and the processes surrounding them should be designed to be easily auditable. Forms should be consistent across all worksites, and the data collected must be easily comparable. That means it must be accessible. Boxes upon boxes of paper forms are not easily sifted through and searched. Papers can be lost, damaged or degrade, and handwriting and coffee stains can inhibit auditing and data entry.
Being compliant, and being able to prove it, is a very important aspect of being auditable. Inspection forms should cover all parts of a work site where compliance regulations must be met. Proving compliance over a long period of time should be made simple as sending an email attachment.
Filing forms should be made easy in the form work flow. The data collected should also be extracted and stored in spreadsheets to enable quick and easy auditing. With more advanced processes, it may be useful to apply analytics to data collected in the field so patterns emerge that a human mind may not initially see. This can stop accidents from happening and improve performance, making for a safer, more productive team.
A good safety inspection form needs to be able to do one thing, and one thing only: ensure the worksite being inspected is safe. Safety inspections, then, need to thoroughly cover every corner of a worksite. They need to ask the right questions, and enable inspectors to answer them with as much detail and clarity as possible. They also need to be accessible, so that the information collected doesn’t just pile up and create a fire hazard’s worth of paper: it creates action against hazards, and towards safety and compliance.