We've all heard the term "living document." It's a bit of a buzzword, but it's pretty accurate. Most procedures develop over time with minor changes that reflect new information or circumstances. As a safety manager, your workplace safety checklist (or checklists, since a large organization is bound to have plenty of them) should be a living document.

Too often, an enthusiastic manager sets up a checklist which gets passed down from person to person without any changes. Over the years it becomes less useful because the organization's innovations aren't taken into account. Before you know it, this living document is as dead as a doornail. Breathe some life into your workplace safety inspection checklist with the right starting points and a regular health check.

Safety Inspection Checklist Form Starting Points

Maybe that enthusiastic manager is you. Either you've just started as safety manager or your company is growing and needs new procedures. Or, maybe the old documents are in such bad shape that it's easier to start from square one. If that's your situation, there are plenty of safety inspection checklist templates available on the internet. For more general lists, check out the links at the end of our popular Safety Plan Templates blog post. For industry-specific ideas, use search terms like, "construction safety inspection checklist" or "safety inspection checklist - manufacturing."

Starting points are just that. You'll have to polish any template and customize it for your situation. But even if you have a good idea of what needs to be checked, scanning through a few templates is a great way to jog your memory and make sure you haven't missed anything.

Your Workplace Safety Inspection Checklist's Health Check

Let's say you've got a safety inspection checklist that's been handed down since your grandfather was in diapers. Or maybe it's fairly recent, but looking a little sickly. Now (and at least once a year) is the perfect time for a health check. A health check is just a series of questions about your list that will prompt you to strengthen it where needed.

1) If you inherited this list, what has changed since it was last updated?

Think about your organization's structure, roles, number of employees and the technology you use. If any of these has changed, does your safety inspection procedure need to reflect that?

2) Does your checklist cover enough safety points? Does it cover too many?

Don't be satisfied with a list because it covers all the OSHA or other governmental requirements. Remember, your goal is to increase workplace safety and enhance your safety culture, not just satisfy an outside board. On the other hand, if your inspector needs to check off 100 items before being able to get any work done, it's possible that you're erring on the side of too much procedure, not enough work.

3) Does this particular checklist actually get used?

Whether it's your job to do an inspection or it's part of a foreman's daily work, if the safety inspection checklist is left behind you need to find out why. It might be outdated, difficult to read, ill-suited to built-in work routines or stored in a hard-to-get-at place. No matter the answer, you'll need to address the problem if you want your checklist to do its job.

These are just a few suggestions. How do you keep your living documents alive?