Special Topics in Safety Management

Time for a Safety Audit? Try This Audit Planning Checklist

The idea of some audits, like one by the IRS, might make your blood run cold. But when it comes to safety and health, an audit is a proactive tool that tells you if your program is achieving the desired results.

Workplace audits help you monitor safety and health performance, as well as compliance with OSHA and state regulatory standards. Information gained from an audit can help you and your management:

  • Recognize the positive results of safety and health programs and policies.
  • Identify and correct hazards before they cause accidents or illnesses.
  • Feel confident that the company will fare well if Cal/OSHA conducts its own inspection.
  • Reduce exposure to liability and litigation.

Audits can also heighten awareness and provide a way for employees to get involved in a ‘company’s’ safety and health program. They can help improve communications between management and labor, with a safer, healthier workplace as the result.

Use this planning checklist to make sure that you get the greatest possible benefit from your audits.

Identify Audit Priorities

You can identify the areas your audit needs to focus on and develop checklists for auditors to use by looking at:

  • Injury and illness information, including your Cal/OSHA injury and illness log, workers’ compensation data, and near-miss reports,
  • Employee complaints, and
  • Incidents from outside your facility, either within your industry or involving similar processes and equipment.

A solid accident and incident investigation process is a critical component of an effective safety program just as safety audits are. BLR’s upcoming live webinar will give you the tools and information you need to perform effective investigations and prevent repeat accidents. Click here for details.

Select Auditors

It’s critical that anyone conducting an audit recognize the importance of working through the entire audit checklist, covering every point thoroughly. Depending on the type of audit and what you hope to accomplish, you may select your auditors from your:

  • Safety staff
  • Safety committee members
  • Employee representatives from within the department being audited

Each of the choices above will bring expertise in safety and in the processes being audited. Or, you may choose auditors from among:

  • Employee representatives from outside the department being audited
  • Third parties (e.g., insurance carriers, private consultants)

Each of these choices will bring a fresh perspective to the audit process.

To encourage employee participation in the audit process, you can try a rotation system that gives different employees audit responsibilities each time you conduct an audit. That way, over time, a large number of workers will have the chance to participate. The greater the employee participation in safety and health audits, the greater the sense of responsibility for safety.

Determine Audit Procedure and Scope

Audits can be announced or unannounced:

  • Unannounced audits give you a real picture of safety conditions and performance.
  • Announced audits may not provide as accurate of a picture, as people will have time to clean up and be on their best behavior. On the other hand, announced audits have the advantage of including employees in the process, which is always a good thing.

Join us on March 28 for an in-depth webinar in which you’ll learn the key steps in effective accident investigation and how to use root cause analysis to establish and improve your investigation process. Learn More.

Audits can also be general or specific.

  • General audits help identify hazards, including formerly unrecognized hazards, intermittent conditions that were missed during a prior audit, and employee dissatisfaction with safety conditions of which management was unaware.
  • Specific audits are more commonly used to identify possible solutions to known or existing hazards.

Follow Up on Audit Findings

Following up on the findings of an audit is essential.

  • If everything is in order, employees should be acknowledged for their good efforts.
  • If problems are identified, make sure employees understand the risks and are included in the abatement process. This applies to both physical hazards and unsafe behavior.

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