June marks National Safety Month and as any safety professional will tell you, prevention is key to ensuring a safe workplace. That means ongoing maintenance and housekeeping initiatives to ensure any on-the-job hazards are cleaned up and resolved before anyone gets hurt.

One prevention strategy recommended by the National Safety Council, which started the National Safety Month campaign in 1996, is the “safety walkaround.” The safety walkaround entails setting aside time regularly to walk the office, jobsite or shop to look for and identify potential hazards. Anyone in the organization, from workers to management and safety staff should be encouraged to participate.

Even if your workplace has a very strong safety culture, the walkaround offers a valuable opportunity to confirm that your safety protocols are being followed and that your employees are trained properly.

NSC provides five tips for an effective safety walkaround:

  1. Bring a group – The safety manager should not be looking for safety issues on their own. Different individuals with different roles in the organization have insider knowledge about varying aspects of the workplace and will be able to spot specific issues. For example, management might have a good overview. Meanwhile, workers are involved in the details of the work process every single day. Having a fresh set of eyes is valuable, but also make sure the group is not too big.

  2. Don’t just point out the failures, but also reward the good – OSHA Region 3 Assistant Administrator Nicholas DeJesse recommends a “2-to-1” rule when speaking to employees – point out two things that a worker is doing well for every one problem (“Good job in keeping a clean workspace. I appreciate that you are wearing your safety goggles while you work. But please make sure that you move the electrical cords out of the way to avoid tripping.”) Rewarding employee efforts to keep their space hazard-free is likely more effective in encouraging safety consciousness than simply pointing out hazards.

  3. Document – Take notes and photos or use an inspection app during the walkaround. Afterward, compile a report noting positive safety efforts as well as problems and consider possible solutions and strategies for improving safety. Your goal should be not to come across the same hazards every time you schedule a walkaround.

  4. Prioritize fixes – You can’t fix every problem at once. Focus first on the hazards of immediate concern. OSHA offers a hazard prioritization matrix that uses five levels of “likelihood of occurrence or exposure” (frequent, probable, occasional, remote and improbable), along with four categories of “severity of injury or illness consequence” (negligible, marginal, critical and catastrophic). Visit the Safe and Sound website for additional guidance on finding and fixing hazards. If you see a hazard that can be fixed easily and quickly, take care of it immediately.

  5. Follow up – After issuing your report and scheduling fixes, make sure to go back and check that the problem has been resolved and that the solution is working properly. Periodically recheck.