Why Safety Walks Are So Important

In almost any workplace, there are safety inspections, safety audits, and policies for incident reporting. The main aim of these practices is to improve workplace safety. Yet, despite the increased attention on workplace safety in recent times, the incidence of workplace injury is still high. 

To reduce workplace incidents, there are various safety protocols you can implement. One of these is the safety walk. Safety walks offer insight into your employees’ working environment. In doing so, they help you identify any potential hazards or risks that need to be fixed. 

In this article, we look at why safety walks are so important.

What Is A Safety Walk (And Talk)?

A safety walk involves walking around the workplace to identify possible safety problems. A safety talk refers to interacting with employees on the topic of workplace safety. 

A safety walk usually consists of three stages. These are the pre-inspection, on-site and post-inspection activities. However, the exact nature of these activities will differ depending on the nature of the workplace. 

The pre-inspection stage focuses on finding out what the managers’ and safety representatives’ main concerns are when it comes to safety. At this stage, it’s helpful to look at past incident reports and inspection checklists to identify common issues. 

The next stage is the safety walk (on-site inspection). The safety manager will walk through the site wearing appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE). They will check workstations, equipment, emergency exits, and more. In addition, they will chat with workers and give them a chance to voice any concerns they have. 

It’s important to question workers on their knowledge of safety procedures in their workplace. By doing so, safety managers can address any misunderstandings. They can also highlight shortcomings in safety education and training and recommend improvements. 

After the safety walk, the safety manager analyses the information gleaned from the safety walk. They can draw up plans to address safety concerns and problem areas, to improve workplace safety.

Practical guide for setting up an incident reporting process

Why Are Safety Walks Important?

Safety walks pinpoint areas that pose greater risks to health and safety. By taking note of these potential pitfalls, you can put better safety and security measures in place. This will reduce worker injuries and workplace incidents. 

But, safety walks offer more than a glimpse into the safety of workers. They also provide an opportunity to engage with employees and promote safe practices. Employee engagement is vital to any successful workplace, even in an industrial setting. 

Workers can become despondent if they feel that management is not allowing them to voice their concerns, opinions and suggestions. Therefore, safety walks promote cooperation between management and each department. They also help you to build a strong workplace safety culture.


How Do Safety Walks Differ From Other Safety-Related Inspections And Audits?

Safety inspections and audits focus on the safety of tools and procedures. Safety walks focus on their implementation.  

An external party is often called in to conduct safety audits and inspections. In contrast, safety walks are less formal (and possibly more regular) procedures conducted by the safety managers themselves. 

Unlike safety walks, it is possible to do safety inspections and audits without ever traversing the worksite or discussing safety concerns with employees. This is a major reason why these procedures do little to reduce workplace accidents. 

Although these processes fulfil an important function, to assess how adequately workers understand safety procedures and put them to use, a safety walk is invaluable. It helps to identify any issues in the workplace so that you can resolve them quickly.


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Colour Coding In Safety

Colour coding simplifies tasks, improves safety, and increases productivity. When conducting a safety walk, it’s important to ensure that the colour coding of areas is not only accurate but also easily distinguished amidst its surroundings. Also, ensure that all workers fully understand the meanings of each colour classification.

Assign specific colours to different areas, depending on the risks, dangers and safety hazards that may be present. By painting machinery, water lines, chemical lines, and other equipment according to colour coding standards, you will standardise visual cues for cautions, risks, and hazards. 

This reduces worker errors and therefore lowers the frequency and severity of workplace accidents. Once workers are familiar with what each colour represents, they will be more easily aware of potential hazards in the workplace.


Examples Of How Safety Walks Are Used

Safety walks familiarise safety managers with workers’ actual working conditions, their safety risks and concerns. They present the opportunity to discuss current workplace safety with employees and introduce new safety advances. 

For example, when on a safety walk, a safety manager may notice that a worker is standing too close to the edge of a high platform. He can prevent future incidents by recommending a safety rail and warning sign near the edge. 

Another example is if an overhead boom is dangerously close to the heads of workers when they pass under it. The safety manager will advise that adjustments be made to allow for a greater space to walk through. Or, they may direct workers to an alternative passage. A sign could also be erected, warning of this potential issue.


What To Include In A Safety Walk Checklist

Use a safety walk checklist to assess potential health risks and safety hazards, through a physical examination of the work site. Your safety walk checklist should include all site areas, the surrounding environment, each specific workstation, and all emergency exits and procedures. 

It could include checking the following to ensure everything is as it should be:

  • Equipment (Is everything working as it should?)
  • Walkways (Are they clear, clean and unobstructed?)
  • Safety notices (Are they clear and posted where they should be?)
  • Building structures (Are any parts of the building damaged?)
  • Lighting (Is there adequate lighting?)
  • First Aid (Is it easily accessible?)
  • Personal protective equipment (Is it available for all workers)

A detailed checklist will ensure that the safety manager covers all aspects of worker safety.


Final Thoughts

Safety walks do not negate the importance of regular safety inspections and safety audits. They are a supplementary practice that provides a complete picture of workers’ daily on-site experience. 

To be more in touch with workers and their needs, strive for a well-rounded safety plan that involves all these processes. 


If your organisation is looking for a 360° safety walks tool to involve all employees, service providers and external stakeholders to improve the quality of your operations, have a look at the 30-day free trial of the Falcony Platform:

Falcony free trial

We are building the world's first operational involvement platform. Our mission is to make the process of finding, sharing, fixing and learning from issues and observations as easy as thinking about them and as rewarding as being remembered for them.‍

By doing this, we are making work more meaningful for all parties involved.

More information at falcony.io.

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