Health and Safety – National Inspection Day – October 22, 2014

Health and Safety – National Inspection Day – October 22, 2014

National Inspection Day is a key event that takes place each year to raise awareness of health and safety issues. The day takes its traditional place on the Wednesday of European Health and Safety Week, which is held every October and this year in the week commencing 20th October 2014. Promoted by the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work, all health and safety representatives are encouraged to inspect their workplace on National Inspection Day.

The TUC (Trade Union Congress) in the UK has published a couple of guides that should help health and safety representatives in the process of preparing for inspections. These guides include: Health and Safety Inspections, which contains an example checklist for inspections; and a guide specifically targeting the maintenance area, entitled Maintenance in the workplace – A guide for health and safety representatives, which has a very useful list of things for health and safety representatives to look out for during an inspection. These cover:

  • Is there a maintenance programme for all buildings and equipment?
  • Are all routine or standard maintenance tasks risk assessed and are the risks up to date?
  • Have all control measures that arise from the risk assessment been put in place and are they working?
  • What procedures are in place to ensure that non-routine maintenance work is risk assessed?
  • Is maintenance activity logged and monitored?
  • Are all maintenance workers fully trained and provided with the appropriate equipment and PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) at work?
  • Are workers trained on how maintenance work can affect them?
  • Are all potential hazards (such as asbestos) identified and clearly marked so that maintenance workers will be aware of them?
  • What arrangements are in place to ensure that external contractors are competent and informed about any potential risks within the workplace?
  • Have there been any injuries, illnesses, or near misses reported relating to maintenance activities, or a lack of maintenance work since the last inspection?

 

The TUC pays special attention to maintenance work in particular. This is because that while it is estimated that only 6% of the working population are involved in maintenance work (although not necessarily all the time), it is calculated that across Europe between 15% and 20% of injuries at work happen during maintenance work and for three main reasons. Firstly maintenance work can often involve many of the most dangerous activities, such as work at height, or with electricity and dangerous equipment; secondly, maintenance work is often not risk assessed before it is done; and thirdly, maintenance work is often done by contractors that could be unfamiliar with a specific workplace.

All workplaces will have some type of maintenance work in their premises, and it includes maintaining all types of equipment, buildings, and means of transport. Of course, while maintenance activities can put workers at risk, not carrying out maintenance could put even more workers at risk, as people may have to work with dangerous equipment.

According to the European Agency for Health and Safety, there are five basic principles for safe maintenance, which are: planning; making the work area safe; using appropriate equipment; working as planned; and making final checks. A planned maintenance programme is therefore part of a good safety culture, but it must be done safely.