How to be your health and safety inspector’s best friend

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We’ve all seen the image of the person sawing off the branch they are sitting on.

And if you do an Internet search for ‘health and safety nightmares’ then you’ll find plenty of examples of madcap activities that seem to defy common sense… and certainly wouldn’t go down well with a health and safety (H&S) inspector.

There’s the construction plant operators playing football with diggers, for example. Or the worker using a colleague’s back as a bench for a circular saw. It’s easy to dismiss such far-out incidents as having little bearing on your own, safety-conscious operations.

On the flip side, it’s also easy to see H&S inspections as a chore, to be avoided at all costs. And there’s no doubt that passing an inspection can be a harrowing process, particularly since inspectors in most jurisdictions could potentially shut down your business.

The problem with this mentality is that a disdain for inspections may lead to a disdain for health and safety itself. And that could have serious consequences for your organisation.

Far better, then, to take the opposite view… and think about how you could become an inspector’s best friend by making their visit quick and painless.

The first and most obvious step in this process is obviously to make safety a priority and check for any potential hazards that need to be addressed.

Having a workplace that is visibly free of hazards probably goes about 95% of the way towards dispelling any concerns your inspector might have. But you may still need to deal with the lingering doubt that you’ve simply tidied everything up the day before the visit.

For this, you need to have documentation that proves your long-term commitment to safety.

As a retired warehouse inspector remembers: “I would always ask to see evidence of the most recent racking inspection, just to see when they last had their system independently checked in addition to the internal safety checks I would expect them to carry out.”

Having this information to hand is important, but it’s also worth bearing in mind that the way you present it can matter, too. A mass of crumpled inspection reports, dug out from a musty drawer, is hardly going to instill confidence in your safety regime.

On the other hand, being able to access reports online, in a way that is easy to scan and analyse, will go a long way towards showing safety isn’t something you just polish up for an inspector’s visit.

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