Identify Hazards through Workplace Inspections

(Source: Small Business Safety Toolkit, Nova Scotia)

Employers, managers, health and safety representatives, and workers can—and should—participate in workplace inspections. Inspections are one of the most common and effective tools for identifying and correcting hazards before they cause injuries or illnesses.

You can also use inspections to draw attention to and encourage good health and safety practices. Regular workplace inspections are an important part of your overall occupational health and safety system. Inspections let your workers know that you care about workplace safety.

Workplace inspections include both formal inspections and informal inspections.

Formal inspections are planned, regularly scheduled walkthroughs or examinations of a workplace, selected work areas, or sources of potential hazards, such as machinery, equipment, tools, and work practices. Use an itemized checklist to guide a formal inspection. The primary advantage of formal inspections is that a record is kept and any hazards identified are documented for action and follow up.

Create a workplace inspection checklist to clarify inspection responsibilities, plan and control inspection activities, and provide a report of inspection findings. Checklists permit easy, on-the-spot recording of findings and comments. Be careful, however, that your inspection team does not become so intent on filling out the checklist that they miss other hazardous conditions. Use a checklist as a tool, not as an end in itself. Keep the focus on workplace safety.

Example inspection checklists are included in your workbook.
Use them as a guide to create an inspection checklist specific to your farm.

Informal inspections are a conscious awareness of health and safety hazards and controls as people do their daily jobs. They differ from formal inspections in that they do not necessarily rely on a checklist, and they are not regularly scheduled.

Informal inspections can be done for a specific work area or task. They are limited because they are not systematic or focused, but they may spot potential hazards. The advantage of informal inspections is that anyone can do them at any time. Letting your workers know that informal inspections are a part of everyone’s daily business gives each worker permission to speak up about hazards.

Identify Hazards through Task Analysis

Task analysis is a key method for recognizing potential hazards. It is a structured approach of breaking a task down into steps, looking for hazards at each step, and developing ways to eliminate or control the hazards to prevent injury.


It is best to involve your workers when doing a task analysis. They are the people most familiar with the tasks. They are most likely to have insight into the tasks that a casual observer may not notice. A thorough task analysis involves five steps:

  1. Select the task to be analysed;
  2. Identify the steps involved in that task;
  3. Identify and rank potential hazards at each step;
  4. Determine how to control the hazards; and
  5. Write a safe work procedure.

For a more detailed look at task analysis – including a closer examination of each step involved – refer to your workbook.

Identify Hazards through Observation

Hazards may be identified through observation—by anyone at your workplace. You can think of observation as being aware of your surroundings in the normal course of your day and noticing something out of the ordinary.

Listen to your workers

When a worker raises a concern about something they’ve observed, attend to it immediately. Determine if there is a hazard and whether controls need to be put in place or improved. Provide your workers with an easy forum to report hazards. A simple report form can be made available for workers to fill out and submit or it could be done verbally.

Workers and others in the workplace should report any hazards immediately. Encourage the reporting of “near misses” as well. If you notice a worker seems uncomfortable or concerned when completing a task, ask them why. Then make sure their concern is heard and acted upon.

Refer to your workbook for an example hazard report form.

Visitors provide a fresh perspective

Sometimes a casual observation by a visitor or another fresh set of eyes can point out something you may not have noticed.


Identifying hazards on the farm can seem like a large daunting task. You need to break it down into manageable steps.

  • Identify the tasks performed on the farm (e.g. pruning, milking, welding).
    • Perform a task analysis on each task – start with the more hazardous tasks first.
  • Identify the equipment and products use on the farm.
    • Conduct an inspection of the equipment and products to ensure they are safe working condition (according to manufacturer’s specifications).
    • Identify the task associated with the equipment and products.
    • Perform a task analysis on each task – start with the more hazardous tasks first.