A Safety Manager’s Best Friend – The Checklist


A job safety checklist can save lives, money and lead to a more productive working environment.

According to the Association of Workers’ Compensation Boards of Canada (AWCBC),  between 2008 to 2010, there were 700 construction job-related deaths which accounted for 23.3 percent of all Canadian workplace fatalities during that period.

Could properly planned and executed safety checklists have prevented some of those deaths?

It’s a possibility.

Aquicon Construction recognizes their value. It uses standardized safety checklists which are developed with its third party safety consulting firm, Advantage Ergonomics Canada (AEC) Safety Solutions.

Here’s what AEC President, Tyler Scott, has to say about the importance of safety checklists.

What do you put on those lists and why?

First Aid Kits, Ladders/Scaffolds, Fire Safety, Fall Protection, Electrical Safety, Guardrails, PPE (Heat, Feet, Ear & Eye), Overhead Power lines, Public Way Protection, Floor Openings and Ventilation to name a few.

We have chosen these items because they are the main areas of infraction on a construction project.

What makes a good checklist and why?

A good checklist recognizes a problem, assesses the severity of the issue and provides a recommendation to eliminate the problem.

How often do you create & update safety checklists?

Our standardized checklists are reviewed and updated annual, but each checklist is used on our construction projects and project specific information is added to our standardized checklists.  This provides our field staff with the basic information and prompts them to add their project specific information for each type of checklist.

How many people are involved in your checklist creation process and why?

Typically three people. One representative from Senior Management at Aquicon Construction, one representative from AEC Safety Solutions and one representative from our field staff.  This provides input from three unique backgrounds to help compile a proactive and project specific checklist.

How many types of safety checklists do you have?

We use one main checklist (project safety inspection) which addresses all potential hazards on a construction project. It documents who is responsible for an infraction (constructor or employer) and provides instruction for correction. This is performed bi-weekly and randomly by AEC Safety Solutions on all our projects as we find a third party provides an excellent resource to our in house staff.  Project supervisors and project health and safety representatives also conduct these inspections regularly. Overall, Aquicon has approximately thirty checklists available for project specific items such as overhead wires, confined space, lockout/tagout, emergency procedures, etc.

What real results have you received by using a job site safety checklist?

We have the responsibility of all workers on the project. We have seen a reduction in the number of infractions for our sub-contractors as our inspection reports address the issues on the project with the subcontractors and copies are sent to their office to provide corrective action when necessary.

Job safety checklists can be life-savers, but only if they’re well thought out, implemented properly and employees follow them.

Without this team effort, more heartbroken families will deal with the tragic consequences.



  1. Brian Mellon CRSP/NCSO says:

    Checklists are a tool in our toolbox. Like any tool they will provide results – albeit limited.

    They do help with organization and they do provide some quantifiable statistics and important information that we can use to make the workplace better, safer.

    Where they lose there value is when there is no follow-up to the opportunities identified on them and/or management uses them for discipline (Fault Finding) or doesn’t use the information on them at all.

    Another item I have seen over the years is that when we use too many documentation needs, they are not completed, not completed in a timely manner, not fully completed, create complacency in the person(s) doing the checklist, not implemented properly (no training given on content expectations) or are deligated to people who have their own challanges at work and have little interest in having more duties/paperwork.

    Another potential issue with them is failing to track the data collected and then using that data for trending. Collecting information is pointless usless we act upon it and act upon it in a “Positive” manner so we not only correct workplace conditions but also improving worker behaviours and building a “I got your back” type of work culture.

    So in closing – I do see their value, but as I stated at the beginning, it is only one tool in the Safety Persons Toolbox and is only one method of ensuring a safe workplace for our teams.

    • Dave Mendonca says:

      Hi Brian,

      Thank you for writing and sharing your opinion. I appreciate it.

      You made many terrific points. At the end of the day, if checklists aren’t properly planned, executed and used for positive reasons, it could compromise job safety.

      You’re right. Checklists shouldn’t be the only line of defence. When part of a comprehensive safety package, a checklist is a good complement.

      You mentioned the Safety Persons Toolbox. In your experience, what other effective tools have you used to help ensure workplace safety?

      Thank you again for your thoughts.

  2. Brian Mellon CRSP/NCSO says:

    Hi Dave:

    Other tools?

    Leaders are present in the field. Managers play with spreadsheets. If your people don’t see you – how can you guage the Safety Culture you have? How can you mentor or just show them you give a damn unless you are out where they are? I am not talking long periods of time here, I am talking about Quality time, getting to know them and them getting to know you. Finding the common ground and building relationships from that.

    Safety Meetings are a great opportunity to educate your team and a forum to hear and understand their concerns and what they see day to day.

    Behaviour oberservations (Peer to Peer but also performed by supervision and management) are essential as well, as long as the program puts emphasis on positive interactions. If the program is used for punative or punishment then it is as useless as a pair of gloves that are full of holes.

    These are a few of my favourite tools. :o)

    I hope this response finds you well.

    • Dave Mendonca says:

      Brian, you’ve provided some incredibly useful information for our readers. Thank you for that. I’m sure some would share your thoughts regarding the lack of quality time spent with employees to discuss safety matters. It’s unfortunate. You’d think it would be a higher priority. In any case, thank you for your time and insight.

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