EHS Management

Check Yourself Out: Three Self-Audit Tips

Are you prepared to face an OSHA inspector? If your answer is “Maybe?” or perhaps, “I’m not really sure,” then it might be time for a fresh self-audit. Check yourself out, and make sure you look good.

Here are five tips that can help you get the most out of an audit.

  1. Know what you hope to accomplish

Ideally, your safety audit program will use specific, methodical auditing, checking, or inspection procedures to discover conditions and work practices that lead to job accidents and industrial illnesses, so that they can be corrected. But your program can do much more than that, if you plan it well.

A well-designed safety audit can:

  • Spotlight unsafe conditions and equipment
  • Focus on unsafe work practices or behavior trends before they lead to injuries
  • Reveal the need for new safeguards
  • Involve many more employees in the safety program
  • Help sell the safety program within the organization thereby enabling you to:
    • Re-evaluate the safety standards of the organization
    • Compare safety results against safety plans
    • Gauge the relative success of safety training efforts
    • Anticipate problems in advance of any OSHA inspection
  1. Plan your audit carefully

A good safety audit requires careful planning and diligent preparation. First, ask yourself whether you want to conduct a general inspection or do you want to conduct a special type of inspection?

  • General inspections are considered comprehensive reviews of all safety and industrial health exposures in a given area or even a complete factory.
  • Special inspections (sometimes called targeted inspections) deal with specific exposures in a given unit, section, or even plantwide. Such an inspection might focus on electrical hazards in machinery used for manufacturing, or the hazards that may have generated back injuries as recorded in the OSHA 300 log or noticed during a review of workers’ compensation reports. It could involve the branch’s compliance with the OSHA Hazard Communication Standard and the development of a checklist for compliance with the principal elements of that standard.

A good inspection program can include both the special and the general type of inspections. For example, one month a program could involve a complete plant tour for safety hazards; the next month the inspection program could focus on personal protective equipment and how it is used on the job. OSHA encourages such a mixed approach, believing that a combination of the two types of programs can strengthen a plant’s accident-prevention effort.

  1. Decide who will conduct your audit

In choosing your auditor(s), consider the complexity of the process, the nature of the inspection (general or specific), the time availability of candidate inspectors, the expected frequency of the tours, and other factors.

In some manufacturing companies, the safety committee will take the lead in inspections. In other operating units, a rotating team of supervisors, perhaps with safety committee assistance, will head the task. Make sure that you do involve your supervisor or manager; this makes it clear that line management, not the safety department, has responsibility for safety.

Inspecting complex technological operations may require specialized skills, knowledge, training, or even certification. Such inspections should be conducted only by people knowledgeable about the department or operation.

You may also want to bring in outside experts to help with your audit. Consider whether you could get valuable input from your:

  • Insurance company loss-control specialist. These can be helpful by coming to inspect your premises and helping you with your safety audit. This is particularly true for organizations that involve hazardous occupations.
  • Workers’ compensation carrier. Sometimes your workers’ compensation carrier will conduct voluntary or required plant tours to assess your safety program.
  • Specialized vendors, like boiler inspectors, can also provide valuable audit assistance, perhaps on a semiannual or yearly basis.

Tune in tomorrow for two more tips that will help you build an effective audit program.

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