Look and listen carefully to uncover problems.
Safety walkarounds, aka management walkarounds, serve two purposes: Checking work in progress for potential safety problems and letting employees see firsthand that the company takes safety seriously. They’re also a good opportunity for management and field workers to discuss ways to make the jobsite safer and the company’s safety program more effective. Unlike formal inspections, walkarounds should be conversation-heavy and collaborative.
Managers can learn things during a walkaround that they won’t learn from reading reports, which is one reason they’re so valuable. And by showing a genuine interest in keeping workers from getting hurt, walkarounds can help managers build rapport, especially if they focus on asking questions vs. pointing fingers.
Want more ways to make the best use of your time during a walkaround? Here are a few suggestions distilled from OSHA’s new fact sheet, Safety Walk-Arounds for Managers.
Know what to look for. Before you go onto the jobsite, analyze the parts of the construction process where you’ve had the most accidents. Look at injury records and ask your safety manager, superintendents and/or onsite safety committees what areas they’re concerned about. Make sure your walkaround covers those areas.
Keep your group small. Workers are more likely to share their concerns with a couple of people, and more likely to clam up around a large group.
Dress the part. Your workers won’t take mandates about wearing PPE seriously if you don’t follow the rules. Make doubly sure you’re wearing the PPE correctly.
Keep your eyes peeled. Among other things, look for trip hazards, blocked exits, frayed wires, missing machine guards and equipment that might need maintenance. Watch employees work. Are they using poor ergonomics or performing repetitive motions that could cause injury? Make a list of hazards that need to be addressed as you go.
Encourage workers to speak up. Let them know you respect their expertise and are genuinely interested in hearing their insights about safety and their concerns about hazards they face the job. Ask them what they’d recommend to fix a problem they’ve mentioned. Brainstorm with them for ideas on how to make their work safer.
Talk with the newbies. Seek out new workers to chat with and get their fresh perspective on jobsite safety. Ask them about hazardous tasks they perform and how they would report an injury, hazard or near-miss, for example.
Offer solutions. If you can suggest an effective solution on the spot to a problem you see, you might gain some instant credibility.
Follow up. Soon after the walkaround, make of list of corrective actions for the hazards you identified and a reasonable timeline for implementation, and share your plan with workers as well as supervisors. If the hazards are more complicated, identify short-term controls to be used while more permanent measures are developed.
The OSHA fact sheet Walk-Arounds for Safety Officers provides some suggestions for how to prioritize which safety hazards to address first.
If time is money, then a safety walkaround is money well spent, especially if it results in higher morale and a safer construction workplace.
Freelance writer Mary Lou Jay writes about business and technical developments in a variety of industries. She has been covering residential and commercial construction for more than 25 years.