This is the first of a three-part series on facility inspections. Conducting regular reviews of solid waste and recycling facilities help identify potential worker safety hazards before anyone gets hurt.
By Will Flower

Monthly or quarterly inspections of facilities can improve safety and ensure compliance with Federal, state and local laws, rules, and regulations. Facility inspections can focus on environmental regulations, safety rules, company policy,
transportation laws, or any combination of compliance and safety issues.

Checklists can aid the inspection process and ensure that important items are not overlooked. However, trained inspectors will look beyond the checklist and have the ability to identify concerns that are not on the checklist. Bottom line is that anything that does not look safe should be identified in the inspection report.
The following checklist can be used to review walkways, exits, ladders, lighting, and general housekeeping at solid waste facilities.

Facility inspections allow safety professionals and managers to review operations and identify and address safety concerns and potential workplace hazards. Photo courtesy of Will Flower.

Checklist #1
Instructions: A properly trained facility manager, safety manger, supervisor, or team of qualified individuals should conduct the inspection. Do not rush the inspection process. Verify compliance with each item. Make written notes of all corrective actions needed and the location of safety issues that need attention. Immediately assign corrective actions to appropriate personnel. Follow up to make certain necessary corrective actions have been taken to remove, repair, or replace the non-compliant situation. Once the inspection is complete, sign, date, and file the checklist.

1. Evaluate walkways, walking surfaces, stairs, and exits

  • Aisles and floors free of slip and trip hazards
  • Aisles at least 22 inches wide and clearly marked for pedestrian traffic
  • Mirrors used at intersections and adjusted properly
  • Elevated walkways are properly guarded by a standard railing and toe boards; note that toe boards should be a minimum of 3.5 inches high
  • Floor openings such as manholes and drains, have proper grates or covers, and are secured
  • Fixed stairs are installed to access platforms and catwalks where access is required on a regular basis
  • No storage or clutter exits on walkways, stairways, or landings
  • Steps are slip resistant
  • Steps and risers on stairs are uniform from top to bottom
  • Stair rails are provided on fixed stairs with four or more risers
  • Stair railings are no more than 36″ or less than 32″ from top of the step
  • At least two exit routes available for each employee workstation (e.g., from a sorting line)
  • All exit doors are unlocked during work hours and when the facility is occupied
  • All exit sign lettering is at least 6″ in height and 3/4″ thick
  • Exits clearly marked
  • Aisles leading to exits are clean and at least 28″ wide

2. Review entrance way, driveways, sidewalks, and parking lots

  • Gate and perimeter fence is standing and in good condition with no damage
  • Traffic control signs and barriers (e.g. entry, exits, speed limits) are properly posted and legible
  • Site Safety Rules Signage is posted and legible
  • Parking lots are free of potholes, cracks, and other trip hazards.
  • Storm drains and grates in good condition
  • No standing water
  • Sidewalks are even
  • Seasonal hazards (snow, ice, leaves, and heavy rains) are addressed
  • Available tools such as snow shovels and ice-melt are readably available

3. Examine ladders

  • Ladders are clean and in good condition (including attached safety feet)
  • Rails and rungs are not cracked or bent
  • Ladders are properly stored and secured

4. Check lighting

  • Work areas have adequate lighting
  • Lightbulbs and florescent tubes that are not working are replaced
  • Exterior and interior lights are adequate and in working order

5. Evaluate housekeeping

  • Work places, workbenches are clean and orderly
  • Washrooms, locker rooms are clean and orderly
  • Hand soap and warm water provided
  • Hand towels for drying hands provided
  • Employee break areas clean

Identifying Safety Issues
Once the checklist is complete, the results should be reviewed at staff meetings to ensure that issues are addressed and corrected in a timely manner. People must be given assignments to correct deficiencies and report back when corrections are made. Common or repeat issues can help the safety manager and site manager determine areas where additional training is needed.

Over time, facility inspections should become easier as employees become better trained and as the number of potential hazards decrease. The goal is to have a robust inspection program that is able to identify safety issues and immediately correct problems. | WA

Will Flower is the Vice President of Corporate and Public Affairs at Winters Bros. Waste Systems. Will has 39 years of experience in the area of solid waste management and environmental protection. He has held operational and executive leadership positions at the Director’s Office of the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency, Waste Management, Inc., Republic Services. Inc., and Green Stream Recycling.

Share your safety tip. Submit your suggestions to Will Flower at [email protected].