Automated Safety Inspections – Is it Possible?

Maintaining Safety with Automated Safety Inspections

When it comes to maintaining the safety of a facility, few things are as important as the safety inspection. These inspections should be done on a regular basis by either an internal auditor, a third party provider, or both.

Keep in mind, whether you perform safety inspections internally or not, you will almost certainly be inspected by regulatory institutions like OSHA and others. Making the effort to ensure you will pass these inspections is absolutely essential for the success of your business.

With modern technology, some people and companies are looking in to the option of automated safety inspections. Taking some or all of their inspection tasks, and having them automated so that they can be performed more often, and require less effort. The big question, however, is whether or not these types of inspections can be effective.

Let’s take a moment to look into automated safety inspections, so you can determine if it is something your facility should consider.

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What are Automated Safety Inspections?

To start out, you should have a good understanding of what is meant by automated safety inspections. While the specifics will vary from company to company, the general concepts will be largely the same.

Essentially, an automated inspection will take particular areas that need to be inspected on a regular basis, and put some type of system in place that will perform the task for you. There are a number of different options for this type of automation, including the following:

  • Computer Sensors – Many advanced machines have sensors installed that can detect certain problems. Monitoring lubricant levels, heat levels, obstructions and more can all be done through these sensors. The data gathered can be stored in one central location for review.
  • Real Time Analysis – Another option is to move some of the inspection tasks from an auditor to the front line employees. They can check some basic things while doing their day to day job, so that the inspectors can focus their efforts on more complicated or important tasks.
  • Software Monitoring – Some machines have built in computers that control many of the devices. These computers can often notify you of issues automatically. In addition, you can often purchase automated monitoring systems that can be put on a variety of machines or other systems to perform the inspections and report the results via a computer network or mobile device.

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In addition to these types of systems, you can also do partial automation. Partial automation is essentially using technology or other things to move a portion of the tasks away from a human and to another type of system, such as:

  • Mobile Inspection Software – Laptops and/or tablets are extremely powerful options that many companies are moving to. Inspectors can take these devices with them so they can use customized inspection software to complete their tasks in a fraction of the time it would take with pen and paper.
  • Digital Checklists – You can put a checklist for all the inspection tasks that need to be done right on a tablet computer. As you go through the inspection process, just tap the proper areas to indicate whether a particular machines passes, fails or requires further inspections.
  • Scheduling – Using computer systems, you can put all your inspection requirements into a schedule so you can be reminded of what needs to be done each day. This can save you a lot of time and effort when it comes to planning out your inspections.

Of course, there are many other ways to do partially automated safety inspections. Look and see what things are available so you can choose the ones that will meet the specific needs of your company.

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Is it Possible to Automated Safety Inspections?

While it may not be possible to be 100% automated, you certainly can reduce the total amount of time and effort that is spent on your inspections each year. Internal inspections, for example, can take up a lot of human resources and even cause a lot of down time.

Using some of the methods listed above, you can get some of that time and energy back and turn it into more productivity. The more of the safety inspection tasks that you can automated (either fully or partially) the less work the auditors and inspectors will have to perform. This can save your facility a lot of time and money, and allow the inspectors to focus on the most important things.

Benefits of Automated Safety Inspections

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When thinking about implementing automated safety inspection tools, you really need to understand the benefits that you’ll get. Anything that you are able to completely automate using sensors or other tools will allow the person who would otherwise have performed the inspection to do other tasks.

Another benefit of automation in this area is that it can often be done while the machine is running. When a person has to perform an inspection, they may need to stop production to interact with the machine to see if it is running properly. Computers and sensors, on the other hand, can perform inspections on an ongoing basis, even when machinery is in motion.

Automated safety inspections can also be more detailed than manual ones. Computerized inspections, for example, can get deep within machines to monitor potential problems that would be impossible to see for a person.

Disadvantages of Automated Safety Inspections

While these types of inspections clearly have some great benefits, you’ll also want to take note of some of the downsides of automating these tasks. For example, it can be expensive to add automated inspection to a machine. You may need to purchase hardware or software (or more likely, both) in order to get the results you desire.

Another downside is that completely automated inspections only monitor what they are programed to monitor. Humans, on the other hand, can notice things that are out of the ordinary quickly and easily so that they can investigate further.

Finally, automated inspections can make you lazy. When a facility depends on these automated processes, they may end up thinking that they don’t need to perform any inspections on their own. This could expose the facility to potential problems when OSHA or other inspection organizations come through to ensure everything is up to code.

Getting the Best of Manual and Automated Inspections

For most facilities, the best option is to implement as many automated inspection processes as possible, while still using manual inspections wherever necessary. In addition, performing the occasional fully manual inspection can help to identify problems that the automated utilities might miss.

In addition to getting the best of both worlds, doing it this way can help you to improve on the automated inspection processes over time. As you find something that was missed by a computerized system, for example, you can make adjustments to the system or add additional hardware. This will allow you to continuously improve your inspections, which will result in a safer facility.

As with most things, it is a good idea to use an overall strategy that will allow your facility to have the most effective inspections possible. Not only will this improve the overall safety of your facility, but it will also help to ensure you can easily pass all inspections from OSHA or other government or private regulatory institutions. 

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