Safety plans and policies are essential in any workplace. While incident reporting and safety inspections are important, safety walks offer practical insight into employees’ experiences. Not to be confused with a safety inspection, this article looks at what safety walk-around is, what it entails, and why they are important.
A safety walk is the easiest way for safety professionals to get first-hand information on employee’s safety practices in the workplace. In order to develop and implement actionable safety practices for employees, it’s important to get input from the people who will be following them.
Engaging with employees for processes and decision making is also great for employee satisfaction and cooperation. Leveraging safety walks also increases situational awareness and develops the safety culture.
Safety walk-arounds are often compared to safety inspections and audits, but they have some key differences. The latter ones are more formalised practices around observing and evaluating safety hazards and procedures - in most cases conducted by safety professionals or external parties. On the other hand, safety walks are less formal and involve employees in the conversation around their experience of safety.
What does a safety walk involve?
The content of a safety walk is subject to differ based on the environment, but they usually have 3 main stages:
1. Pre-Inspection Activities
These activities include all of the preparation work to conduct the safety walk. This can include looking at past incident reports, finding out what managers’ and safety representatives’ biggest concerns are, and acquiring any PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) needed for the walk.
The safety walk-around is different from a safety inspection but it may be useful to look through old safety inspection checklists as well. This can help you become aware of previous shortcomings and identify problem areas.
2. Onsite Inspection Activities
The walk-around may also be less formal than an inspection, but it is still essential to have a safety walk checklist. Why? Because it enables the employees to take the important aspects into account and also offers the possibility to have comparable results.
First on that checklist should be that the person or people conducting the walk wear PPE. It is important to note any hazards observed on the walk - this should also be on the checklist. Also, look out for things like property damage during these walks.
It is also important to know what information you hope to get out of the walk. Make a list of the questions you want to ask employees. These questions should be open-ended to prompt thorough explanations from employees.
The goal of the walk is to gain practical knowledge of safety in the workplace. Psychology and culture play a big role in workplace safety - some even suggest conducting safety walks just for these!
3. Post-Inspection Activities
This part of the process is for planning and feedback. You will need to analyse the information gathered during the safety walk, make plans to correct issues and communicate them to employees.
Employees can easily become despondent if their contributions do not have an impact. It is important that plans are developed with reasonable timelines and that they are kept up to date on the progress.
In conclusion, safety walks are an essential part of health and safety in the workplace. They are useful not only in developing practical solutions to safety issues but also as a tool to promote employee engagement and satisfaction.
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