Are you certain that your construction job-site equipment is fully functional and capable of keeping your workers safe? If you haven’t conducted any recent inspections, you can’t say this confidently. Fortunately, there are some easy steps you can take to conduct better equipment inspections and feel more sure of your equipment.
Why Equipment Inspections Are So Important
Why are equipment inspections so important?
Keep in mind that when we’re using the term “equipment,” we’re not just referring to heavy machinery. We’re also referring to basic instruments and tools of the job, such as ladders, fall protection systems, and personal protective equipment (PPE).
- Equipment is only safe if undamaged and working as intended. Understand that equipment is only going to be safe if it’s currently undamaged and working as intended. This is easy to understand in the context of a motor vehicle; if your brakes are worn, or if your tire treads have been worn down, your car isn’t going to be as safe as it would be otherwise. You’ll need to engage in preventative maintenance and correct these issues to operate the vehicle in a safe manner. Ladders, extension cords, and even power tools may be simple in comparison to a complex machine like a motor vehicle, but this principle holds true; even a single flaw or point of damage could create an opportunity for an incident to occur.
- Equipment is vulnerable. Recognize that equipment is vulnerable. Even when used and stored properly, your equipment can suffer from damage or degrade over time. If the equipment isn’t used or stored responsibly, this vulnerability increases dramatically.
- Damage can be hard to see. If your ladder experiences a broken rung, you’ll obviously know that you shouldn’t use it; it might be impossible to use it. But unfortunately, many forms of equipment damage are hard to see. For example, tiny cracks can compromise the structural integrity of a ladder, and even minor scratches on safety glasses may ultimately increase the risk of eye injuries on the job – especially if those scratches discourage employees from wearing them.
- Inspections are easy to neglect. It’s easy to forget about or overlook the importance of inspections, especially if you’re focused on maintaining productivity in pursuit of an aggressive work schedule. Also, while most employees understand the value of conducting inspections for complex and dangerous equipment, many of them may overlook the importance of inspections for simpler pieces of equipment.
- Better maintained equipment reduces the possibility of delays. When your construction equipment is in safe, working condition, workers will become more productive – and you’ll be much less likely to face delays. This isn’t exclusively about safety; it’s also about productivity and efficiency.
How to Conduct More Consistent Equipment Inspections
So what steps can you take to conduct more consistent and valuable equipment inspections?
- Document inspection policies. Documentation is more than a formality. Thoroughly documenting your philosophy on equipment inspections, documenting the proper approach for equipment and inspections, and making those documents available to everyone is a way of firmly establishing your policies and maximizing adherence to those policies. Be sure to update your documentation as necessary.
- Use a better app. There are many equipment inspection and safety apps that can help you track maintenance, plan inspections, and more. Choose one that fits your organization’s needs and use it regularly.
- Treat all equipment differently. Equipment inspections must vary, depending on the equipment you’re inspecting. For example, fiberglass ladders and aluminum ladders are made from totally different materials, and they are associated with different risks and variable signs of wear and tear; fiberglass ladders usually fade to pink when overexposed to the sun, and aluminum ladders don’t rust obviously, making it hard to detect weathering damage.
- Commit to consistency. Consistency is key in the world of equipment inspections. You should always inspect certain types of equipment before use, and conduct more thorough inspections at regular intervals.
- Train and educate. Don’t assume that your employees are going to be capable of conducting proper equipment inspections, and don’t assume that they’re going to follow all of your documented policies. It’s your responsibility to provide the training and education necessary to ensure all your employees can operate safely.
- Instill strong leaders. Some people reasonably debate whether organizational culture is top-down or bottom-up; in other words, is culture a byproduct of leaders or the people at the bottom? Whatever your philosophy is here, there’s no doubt that strong, committed leaders can play a role in reshaping your culture. Instill safety conscious leaders who take equipment inspections seriously.
- Err on the side of caution. Finally, err on the side of caution. If a piece of equipment looks damaged, and you’re not sure if it’s safe or unsafe, don’t take the risk of using it. Take the time to correct the issue or find a replacement.
Better equipment inspections can help you proactively identify hazards, improve safety, and sometimes, even extend the lifespan of your equipment. While regular inspections may require a bigger investment of time and money, they tend to pay for themselves.
After all, safety should always be your number one priority on a construction job-site.