Conducting inspections

Inspector qualities

  • Knowledge of previous and common campus injuries and illnesses
  • Familiarity with campus hazards, standards, regulations, personal protective equipment (PPE) and procedures
  • Training in inspection which includes, handling personnel and situations
  • Ability, attitude and skills to assess and influence situations requiring corrective action

Preparation and information requirements

Use report forms and checklists appropriate for the inspection type.

Wear the personal protective equipment required. If you do not have personal protective equipment and are not provided with any, do not enter the area. List this as a deficiency during the inspection. Re-inspect the area when personal protective equipment is provided.

Obtain records of previous inspections (departmental, JHSC) and hazard reports pertaining to the area.

Diagram of area

Use drawings of layout or floor plans to help you draw a diagram. Divide area into processes. Visualize the activities and identify the location of machinery, equipment and materials.

Equipment inventory

Know what type of machinery or equipment is used. Review any technical safety data sheets, manufacturers' safety manuals, or standard operating procedures to become familiar with the injury and illness potential of the equipment. 

Chemical inventory

Determine which chemicals are used in the area and whether material safety data sheets (MSDS) are available. Find out whether actual and potential sources of chemical exposure are properly controlled. Make sure that all workers have received training in handling chemicals. Check that all chemicals are labeled with pertinent information, such as handling, storage, and hazardous materials disposal, according to Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System (WHMIS) requirements.


A checklist helps to clarify inspection responsibilities, guides inspection activities and provides a record of the inspection. Checklists permit easy on-the-spot recording of findings and comments. Use checklists as a basic tool, however do not become so intent on noting checklist details that you miss other hazardous conditions.

Sample checklists are available.


Inspection records are important. Past inspection records show what:

  • Has been identified
  • An inspection team concentrated on
  • What areas were not inspected
  • Corrective actions were taken

The record of inspections (checklists if used) should be kept by the Departmental Health & Safety Coordinator for review by the Joint Health and Safety Committee members during their inspection. Records of inspections are to be kept for 2 years.

Inspection principles

  • Retain objectivity and maintain an attitude that is firm, friendly, and fair. Inspections should be fact-finding, not fault-finding.
  • Draw attention to the presence of any immediate danger. If you see a person who seems to be working unsafely, ask the supervisor to have the action stopped. Ask the worker and supervisor why the task is done that way and look for possible alternatives.
  • Shut down and "lock out" any hazardous items which cannot be brought to a safe operating standard until repaired.
  • Do not operate equipment. Ask the operator for a demonstration. If the operator of any piece of equipment does not know what dangers may be present, this is a cause for concern.
  • Never ignore any item because you do not have the knowledge to make an accurate judgement of safety.
  • Look up, down, around and inside. Be methodical and thorough. Do not spoil the inspection with a "once-over-lightly" approach.
  • Clearly describe each hazard and its exact location in your rough notes. Allow "on-the-spot" recording of all findings before they are forgotten. Record what you have or have not examined in case the inspection is interrupted.
  • Ask questions, but do not unnecessarily disrupt work activities. This may interfere with efficient assessment of the job function and may also create a potentially hazardous situation.
  • Consider the static (stop position) and dynamic (in motion) conditions of the item you are inspecting. If a machine is shut down, consider postponing the inspection until it is functioning again.
  • Discuss as a group, "Can any problem, hazard or accident generate from this situation?" when looking at the equipment, the process or the environment. Determine what corrections or controls are appropriate.
  • Take a photograph, where permitted, or make a sketch of a particular situation.
  • Take immediate action as needed. When permanent correction takes time, take any temporary measures you can, such as roping off the area, tagging out equipment or posting warning signs.

Supervisor involvement

Before inspecting an area, endeavour to contact the supervisor. Supervision has information important to the inspection and should assist an inspector but should not act as a tour guide. Supervisors have familiarity with workers, equipment and environment which can interfere with objectivity. An inspector must remain independent and make uninfluenced observations.

If the supervisor does not accompany the inspection, endeavour to consult the supervisor before leaving.

An inspector should discuss each concern and any recommendations with the supervisor.


Complete inspection report form and/or checklist and distribute according to the inspection type.

State exactly what has been detected and accurately identify its location. For example, instead of stating "machine unguarded," state "guard missing on lathe in room number, north building."

Report even concerns which were immediately corrected. Note as corrected. This keeps the records clear and serves as a reminder to check the condition during the next inspection.

Updated: April 20, 2012.