What are inspections and investigations?
A workplace inspection is the act of examining, first-hand, a work location for evidence of unsafe or unhealthy conditions.
An investigation usually refers to seeking out the facts about an injury, illness, or fatality after it has occurred. It can also refer to investigating incidents that could have caused injury, illness or death (e.g., structural collapse). The purpose is to determine the causes and to prevent injuries and illnesses in the future.
What the law says
The Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) defines the responsibilities for regular workplace inspections according to the person's role in the workplace
- Health and Safety Representatives: Section 8, subsections 6-10, 14
- Members of Joint Health and Safety Committees: Section 9, subsections 23-29
The OHSA also sets out the specific requirements for investigating workplace incidents.
Employers are responsible for ensuring a safe workplace. Supervisors are responsible for ensuring that employees work safely and for advising them of workplace dangers. Regulations may specify further requirements. For example, the Construction Regulation (Section 14) requires supervisors (or competent persons that they appoint) to perform inspections of certain parts of the workplace at least weekly. The Regulations for Mines and Mining Plants require examination of hoisting plants (Section 248) as often as every day.
How inspections and investigations can help your business
Injuries and illnesses are costly to employers and employees alike. For employers, there are not only direct costs (such as Ministry of Labour fines or WSIB surcharges), but also indirect costs such as paying substitute workers and loss of production. Some businesses will go bankrupt after an injury. Don't let that happen to you.
If you do have an incident, you need to make sure it never happens again.
Workplace inspections are one of your main ways of knowing the facts so you can prevent incidents from threatening the safety of your workers and your business.
Incident investigation is a way to learn about the circumstances or procedures that lead to an undesirable outcome so it never happens again. Look at it as an opportunity to patch up the holes in your company's safety procedures so that your workers and your company are no longer vulnerable.
What can you do?
- Know your legal responsibilities. Get trained on performing inspections.
- Prepare a checklist based on workplace-specific equipment, materials and procedures. Refer to a site plan to identify areas requiring attention.
- Identify the types of work being done and any potentially hazardous conditions.
- Use your checklist to inspect for the hazards you identified beforehand. Talk to workers about dangers or problems they have seen.
- Correct any hazardous conditions.
- Document your findings and solutions.
- Know your legal responsibilities concerning incident investigation and reporting.
- Get training in investigation and first aid.
- Ensure that you have emergency phone numbers (ambulance, fire, police) at hand.
- Be prepared with the things you’ll need for an investigation. Examples include a tape measure, a flashlight and a camera with flash.
- If an incident happens,
- respond to the emergency by eliminating or controlling remaining dangers, providing first aid, calling an ambulance, informing management, and reporting the incident to the Ministry of Labour as required.
- Secure the scene and identify witnesses.
- Survey the scene, gather evidence and take photographs.
- Take steps to prevent a similar incident from happening in the future.