Conducting a workplace safety audit is the most comprehensive way for a company to gauge the efficiency, effectiveness, and legality of its total health and safety management system.

In addition to ensuring that a business remains in compliance with local, state and federal legislation, safety audits have the potential to identify and correct oversights that could, if left unchecked, lead to costly and tragic workplace injuries or fatalities. If successful in uncovering weaknesses in an employer’s safety programs or practices, audits can also prove to be important tools in designing a new safety plan.

In order to glean any valuable insights from safety audits, though, companies must conduct them in accordance with general best practices. These are the key elements that must be present in any good workplace safety audit

Consistent and Timely Audits

A superior approach could be to schedule various specific safety audits throughout the year on an eleven-month schedule, reserving the final month for one comprehensive workplace safety audit.

It’s important to remember that safety audits are not the same as regular facility inspections, nor should they take the place of them. Facility safety inspections for hazards and their control should be performed with greater frequency, conducted on a weekly basis by supervisors and a monthly basis by management.

Competent and Objective Auditors

A safety audit can only be as good as the professionals conducting it, which is why it pays to entrust the process to those with the necessary knowledge and experience. This specialist auditors must be educated on all relevant laws, regulations and other standards, and trained in the art of violation and hazard identification.

To ensure objectivity, employees should never inspect their own work environment. A fresh set of eyes is better at spotting whatever issues a supervisor or section manager has failed to notice.

Advanced Preparation

Both safety auditors and the companies being audited should be prepared for the experience. At least a week prior to a workplace safety audit, the company should inform all managers and supervisors to have all records, documents, and procedures ready and available for when the audit begins.

For its part, the safety audit team should review all previous program area audits and corrective action recommendations, as well as company, local, state and federal requirements related to the specific program. A refresher on document, inspection and training requirements could also prove helpful.

Finally, the scope of the audit should be determined in advance, and should take into account accident and inspection reports along with input solicited from various managers.

Thorough Recordkeeping

Exhaustive records are a requirement and objective of safety audits. A safety audit team needs to consult all incident reports available for the section which they are auditing, so as to assess where potential problem areas are most likely to exist. Competent incident reports help auditors better apply selective scrutiny to known problem areas. Having audit checklists that manage to cover all safety objectives and applicable regulations will help to make sure that auditors don’t neglect anything.

Perceptive Data Analysis

After inspecting all documents, written programs, procedures, work practices and equipment, the safety audit teams should sift through the collected material to put together a concise report that details all areas of the program. All workplace safety audit comments, recommendations, and corrective actions should consider whether the audited program covers all regulatory and best industry practice requirements are being met and whether there is documented proof of compliance. It’s also important to reach a conclusion regarding how effective employee training has been in producing safe behavior.

Workplace safety audits should address all the possible areas of improvement and include positive feedback for any effectively managed area or component deserving of praise.

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