Canadian Contractor

By James Hong   

What Went Hong?: Site safety inspection

Project Management

Construction site safety inspections are part of a standard set of protocols to evaluate and safeguard a work site prior to work start. Many times, I’ve seen this step misinterpreted either on purpose or due to inexperience by performing the site safety check on the first or first few days while work has already started. Doing so defeats the purpose of the protocol and puts workers at risk of injury and the project at risk of delays which are always costly, not to mention client dissatisfaction.

To properly perform a pre-production safety check, all documents, plans, drawings, and specifications are needed to fully assess the site. The best way to achieve this goal is through BIM which stands for Building Information Modeling. Without going into the details, BIM includes software which is populated by each step of the building construction plan, from conception to completion. This makes gathering information very efficient and streamlines the process of manual collating.

Once these documents are assembled check for safety regulations, standards, and applicable codes for your project.

Using the gathered materials do a preliminary paper safety check by identifying potential hazards and safety risks. This step acts to focus your inspection team on areas of concern once you do the physical assessment.


The site inspection visit should include all the stakeholders including but not limited to, the contractor, safety personnel and project manager.
Before starting your walkthrough ensure everyone has the required PPE for the inspection.

There are seven critical areas to cover to perform a complete and thorough inspection.

  • Site Access and Egress
  • Structural integrity
  • Work areas
  • Utilities and services
  • Safety signage and markings required
  • Emergency preparedness
  • Environmental factors

You should assign a safety team member the sole responsibility of taking notes and performing paper checklist duty. And very importantly, take lots and lots of photos and video if necessary. This step alone will save you from doing a second pre-production safety check or making errors on the first pre-production safety check.

Once your inspection is complete, schedule a sit-down debriefing meeting with the relevant parties. Inform and assign responsibilities and make clear who the reporting contacts are with contact information.

Once site work starts a new safety inspection is required whenever a new division crew starts, a problem arises, or an initial inspection alert is triggered by an event. Safety inspections are an ongoing part of construction projects. There are a myriad number of areas to watch over, some as routine as checking the fire extinguisher’s location and tags, all the way through to ensuring the proper fire blankets are available when required along with so many other pre-defined regulatory requirements. Do not make the mistake of completing a pre-production site safety check and thinking you are done.

Most common missed safety hazards 
Obscured areas can present hidden hazards such as electrical wiring, improper storage and unsecured trenches which are narrow excavations where the depth of a trench is greater than its width and the width measured at the bottom is not greater than 15 ft.

Housekeeping always plays a big role in keeping sites safe. Check for clutter, material storage and debree which can cause injury or tripping hazards.

Make sure you have the proper safety signage at the site. Check for missing or damaged signs and replace them immediately to protect workers from failing to follow safety measures.

Check that workers are wearing proper PPE and that they know where to find company required PPE provisions.

Keep an eye out for ergonomically safe material handling and correct workers if necessary. This prevention step can save workers from injury as well as the project bottom line.

Make sure your workforce is trained and look for signs of inappropriate working habits. Ensuring workforce training should be done before any project is even pre-inspected.

Your daily check-ins and toolbox meets are good opportunities to distribute and collect maintenance inspection records for equipment and machinery. This also includes records for temporary structures, scaffolding and bracing as well as any structure modifications.

And finally, always encourage open communication between the crew, supervisors, and management. This will empower workers to speak up about potential and existing hazards.

Be safe. Be well.

James Hong is an independent writer & journalist.


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