View from the Board: What to expect from an inspection?

Journal of Commerce   ~ Dec 3, 2015 ~


A WorkSafeBC occupational safety/hygiene officer has the right to inspect your worksite at any reasonable time. The officer does not give advance notice of his visit. He or she may be coming as part of a planned inspection. An officer may be there as a result of a complaint or they may decide to inspect the site based on what is observed while driving nearby.

The officer should conduct himself in a businesslike, professional manner and the employer should do the same.

Whatever the reason for the inspection, the officer should – according to WorkSafeBC protocol – enter through the main entrance of the site and go to the site office. The officer should then identify himself, state his business and present a business card. If there is no one in the site trailer, the officer should go to the nearest area with someone working and identify themself, as above, and ask for the management person responsible for occupational safety & health. The officer then sits down with the management person on the site and explains the purpose of the visit/inspection. The officer will not indicate whether it is a regular inspection, a complaint or an observation while driving that brings him or her in. The officer should also ask if there are any site specific requirements for personal protective equipment. This will help to ensure their safety. The officer will ask for an employer representative and a worker representative to accompany them. It is to your advantage to have a knowledgeable management person accompany the officer.

The worker representative must be chosen by the union, if there is one. If there is no union, the worker must be selected by, and from, the occupational safety & health (OH&S)committee. If there is no worker available from the OH&S committee, the officer will ask for another worker. The employer should select one designated and one backup management representative so that one is available to accompany the WorkSafeBC officer. It is a good investment to put the two management representatives through a basic training course on occupational health and safety. Before starting the inspection, the officer will document the total number of workers, the number of workers on site and the shift schedules. Usually, the officer will also ask for the written OS&H program, the list of occupational health & safety committee representatives and information on first aid coverage. As well, the first aid record book and the list of first aid reports are normally the starting point for an inspection. The review of first aid treatment records provides a useful snapshot of workplace safety.

The officer may also ask for more detail about the accidents, including the accident investigation. The employer should ensure that this information is readily available. The WorkSafeBC officer has the authority to write orders requiring the correction of a condition he or she believes to be unsafe or unhealthy. The officer also has the authority to issue a 72 hour closure order to shut down part or all of an operation that contains a situation of immediate danger. The closure order can be extended for a longer period by a senior executive of WorkSafeBC.

This is the first part of a two part series about WorkSafeBC inspections. The second part will address what to do after an inspection.