Inspect, Follow Up to Reduce Risks

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CPWR - The Center for Construction Research and Training

Summary Statement

Describes the importance of routine safety inspections and follow-up reports in improving safety, based on the study of a specific construction site.
July 2003

The use of regular safety inspections with thorough follow-up appears to substantially reduce workplace hazards, CPWR has found. CPWR – Center for Construction Research and Training has been studying the use of this management tool on a 12-story office building under construction in Washington, D.C.

From November 2000 through February 2003, the building owner had a contractor, Safety Environmental Engineering Inc., conduct monthly, then weekly, safety inspections and produce written reports detailing safety problems.

When hazards were found, subcontractor foremen were required to sign a form telling when the hazards were fixed; the site superintendent verified the reports. CPWR staff analyzed the results of 65 inspections listing 1,782 hazards.

Fall hazards made up about 41% of the violations, followed by these types of hazards: electrical (17%), personal protective equipment (11%), housekeeping (9%), fire (8%), and other (16%). Other hazards included impalement from rebar, rigging, overhead, access/exit, and lack of lighting. (One "overhead" hazard is a scaffold without a toeboard, so objects could fall on workers below.)

No published reports could be found about this use of regular safety inspections. But the inspections' effectiveness was suggested by the short time taken to fix the hazards. On average, one-fourth of the hazards were corrected the day of the inspection. Half were corrected in one day, two-thirds in two days, and four-fifths in 3 days.

Managers need to pay attention to follow-up, however. On this worksite, 5% of the problems were corrected with no date listed, and 6% were not corrected. When fixes were delayed, one reason reportedly was difficulty locating a subcontractor to make the change. In some cases, a hazard was not fixed.

About one-fourth (27%) of the problems found were repeats, suggesting a need for training or special attention in toolbox talks.