Occupational Safety and Health Inspection

Labour Inspection: A key element in building a preventive culture on OSH

Labour inspection is a key area of the labour administration system of a country. The aims of labour inspection are:
  • Enforcement of legal provisions relating to conditions of work and the protection of workers while engaged in their work;
  • Provision of technical information and advice to employers and workers concerning the most effective means of complying with the legal provisions; and
  • Identification of defects or abuses not specifically covered by available legal provisions.

Occupational Safety and Health Convention, 1981 (No. 155)

Article 9
  1. The enforcement of laws and regulations concerning occupational safety and health and the working environment shall be secured by an adequate and appropriate system of inspection.
  2. The enforcement system shall provide for adequate penalties for violations of the laws and regulations.

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Ship inspector checking British ferryboat to make sure it complies with safety standards. Port of Southampton

The range of regulatory supervision of labour inspection varies significantly from one country to another. Labour inspectorates deal with several labour matters: working conditions, wages, labour relations and OSH.

An effective inspection system is essential to promote and monitor compliance with OSH legislation. Enforcement and sanctions are indispensable components of any labour inspection system, but they should be adequately combined with prevention policies, aimed at helping employers and workers to avoid or eliminate the risk of occupational accidents and diseases.

In practical terms, the preventive role of the inspection services implies an increasing emphasis on proactive activities, such as carrying out planned inspection visits for such purposes as education, assessing plans for new buildings, plant, equipment and processes, providing information and advice including awareness raising campaigns, etc. However, proactive action must be complemented by reactive activities, e.g. investigations into accidents to identify actions to prevent recurrences or investigations into complaints. Read more on labour inspection

Labour Inspection Convention, 1947 (No. 81)

Article 9

Each Member shall take the necessary measures to ensure that duly qualified technical experts and specialists, including specialists in medicine, engineering, electricity and chemistry, are associated in the work of inspection, in such manner as may be deemed most appropriate under national conditions, for the purpose of securing the enforcement of the legal provisions relating to the protection of the health and safety of workers while engaged in their work and of investigating the effects of processes, materials and methods of work on the health and safety of workers.

Article 13
  1. Labour inspectors shall be empowered to take steps with a view to remedying defects observed in plant, layout or working methods which they may have reasonable cause to believe constitute a threat to the health or safety of the workers.
  2. In order to enable inspectors to take such steps they shall be empowered, subject to any right of appeal to a judicial or administrative authority which may be provided by law, to make or to have made orders requiring--
    (a) such alterations to the installation or plant, to be carried out within a specified time limit, as may be necessary to secure compliance with the legal provisions relating to the health or safety of the workers; or
    (b) measures with immediate executory force in the event of imminent danger to the health or safety of the workers.
  3. Where the procedure prescribed in paragraph 2 is not compatible with the administrative or judicial practice of the Member, inspectors shall have the right to apply to the competent authority for the issue of orders or for the initiation of measures with immediate executory force.