Site Inspections – Inside the mind of your site inspector.

mind - site inspections

Who loves the guy with the clipboard?

Who is this guy to tell YOU and your team how to run your site?

We aimed this article at those of you in the front line of site inspections.

If you dread site inspections and want to make them run smoother with less hassle, then this is for you.

But first, let’s clear up any misconceptions. What are they actually FOR?

Well, let’s first look at what they are not!

They are not a ‘box-ticking exercise’.

Site inspections are not designed to interfere with your work or how you do it.

And they are not a battle of wills to see who is right, and who is wrong.

Site inspections ensure the health and safety of all those working on site.

They prevent injury and unnecessary deaths.

The data backs this up;

The Building Safety Group (BSG) reported an 84% increase in working at height breaches on UK construction sites in the first quarter of 2021.

These figures come from 4300 independent site inspections across the UK for this period.

The HSE also reports that 47% of all construction accidents in the UK were from falls in height in 2020.

These facts show why site inspections are necessary to protect your workforce.

So how can we take the pain out of site inspections and make yours runs smoothly?

Well, if you can understand how your site inspector thinks, and what he is looking for, then you are on the right path to a painless site inspection.

First up – have the right attitude.

Your site inspector is there to ensure the health and safety of everyone on site.

He is there to observe and record.

Site inspections deal with black and white brutal truths. There are no grey areas.

If you adopt a positive attitude towards the inspector and the inspection itself, you will realise the following;

  • It is not ‘personal’.
  • The inspector has a job to do, just like you have.
  • He is not there to question your years of experience or prevent work from being completed on site.
  • He is there to observe and report the facts backed up by hard evidence.
site inspections

In the words of one site inspector:

When I am on-site, I will not be a fraud to my profession’

Site managers with the right attitude will;

  • Embrace compliance – and welcome it
  • Have a good working knowledge of health & safety.
  • Look after their workforce
  • Have excellent systems in place for safe working on-site and great record keeping.
  • Note any particular operations happening on site on any day

Ok, so what does an inspector look for on-site?

How does he think about it?

Let’s look at this step by step..…… The Site inspection starts with…….

First Impressions (outside the gates)

What does he see when he looks at the site entrance? Does he see a chaotic mess? What are his first impressions?

These are some things he is looking for:

  • All contractors and subcontractors should understand compliance with CDM 2015 Part 4.
  • Part 4 covers everything on-site, from traffic routes and vehicles to lighting
  • The correct signage. Is it visible and clearly displayed?
  • He is looking for signs of an orderly site – signs that it is well run.
  • He may look for early signs of safe traffic management

This first impression influences his expectations of what he will find on-site.

Next up is………

People & Organisation – Is there a willingness to comply?

This is half the battle. The inspector will ask standard questions. Sometimes he will receive a site induction from the Principal Contractor.

This exchange should be honest and open. It should also be reciprocal.

If you are unsure of anything – ask him!

He is there to help assist and facilitate.

He is not there to criticise for the sake of it.

In short, he is looking for a willingness to comply without complacency or box-ticking.

This leads to documentation & awareness.

Documentation

Is there evidence of excellent record keeping on-site?

Are there robust systems in place?

Is compliance based on evidence and documentation?

This provides proof.

Even before walking the site, the inspector will usually request a document review.

This will include things like;

  • Are RAMS in place? Are they signed?
  • PUWER register -inspecting equipment once a week ( Hiltigun use etc)
  • TOOLBOX talks
  • CDM regs– the contractor should know them. Toolbox talks keep everyone aware before they go out on-site – they keep health& safety in everyone’s consciousness.
  • LOLER ( lifting)
  • Is there evidence of control and order?
  • He will ask questions about what is going on onsite? Any special operations?
  • He will be wary if he is trying to be manipulated – ‘shepherded’ towards a certain area of the site and away from others.

This brings us to awareness.

Awareness

There is no point in having safe systems and documentation in place if workers are not aware of it.

If site workers are fully aware of safe systems and good practices, this is a positive sign the site is well run.

If the site workers have a complacent attitude or are unaware of H&S practices, this will ring alarm bells for the inspector.

The walkthrough onsite

On average, you can expect this to last an hour.

He will consider things like;

  • How many people are working on-site? Are they 5 or 50?
  • What operations are being carried out and where on-site?
  • Is the site manager attempting to conceal anything?
  • What machinery or tools are being used?
  • Specific operations – excavations or concrete pumping?
  • Are people working at heights?
  • What is traffic management like?
  • Are walkways clearly defined, etc?

Finally, the inspector will write up all the observations and details and issue a close-out report.

In Green Hat Consulting, this is all done on an iPad with specialist software that allows site photographs and annotations.

We then send this electronically to the client.

Finally, we log it onto the Green Hat client management system.

The close-out report will include any remedial action to be carried out.

This will be the first thing an inspector will look at on his next visit.

Have you done this?

If not, then expect it to be the first thing he will ask at the next visit.

We normally give reports ratings of between one and five stars.

One star usually means the work must stop on-site.

This delays the project and is costly and time-consuming.

Imagine paying for plant hire equipment and being unable to complete any work?

The site inspections will also reduce the risk of breaches being found on an unannounced HSE visit.

Last Thoughts

A good site inspector will see his relationship with the site manager as collaborative and reciprocal.

Often the site inspector learns something new and useful too!

He does not want the site manager to be ‘defensive’.

The site manager is there as a guide.

For example, if someone is doing something wrong (not wearing a mask) he should stop to explain what is wrong and how to put it right.

He should explain the dangers-causes and effects.

He will also know possible commercial conflicts of interest.

This can occur where the subcontractor allows its OWN employees onto a site they KNOW is unsafe to work on.

He will know a sub-contractor ‘fears’ upsetting the Principal Contractor and risk losing valuable work.

One of our clients recently summed up the right attitude to site inspections by simply stating;

‘ I just want my guys to go home safe’.

This client commissioned a site inspections presentation from one of our qualified site inspectors to over 20 of his site managers.

This was a great success.

Both parties now know what to expect of the other. There is mutual respect and understanding.

And the inspections go much smoother.

The Final Word

Contractors come in three types.

Profit first – driven by money – They are ‘told’ by the Principal Contractor that they have to have site inspections (they agreed on it in the preliminaries).

They have no choice – they grudgingly accept.

Promotional – They have ALL their sites inspected and commission inspections voluntarily.

This signals a message to their major clients which is ‘ we are safe – you can trust us – we audit ourselves.

Proactive – ‘ I just want my guys to go home safe.’

This category commissions random (unannounced) inspections – commissions on-site workshops from inspectors looking at site photos/common mistakes and do’s and don’ts. The safety of their employees is paramount.

Which one are you?