You can think of your safety audits as “preventive maintenance” for your safety program—even though it would be nice to put a program in place and let it run, things don’t really work that way. Equipment wears down and deteriorates over time—and those pieces of equipment have to be checked regularly. People change—their bodies change, their health status changes, their personal situations change—and all of these can affect how well they’re performing on the job. Likewise, the program that was perfect when you designed it might not be so perfect when the equipment or the people in your workplace change. A safety audit makes sure that your program and your practices are keeping up with everything and everyone else in your facility.
Yesterday, we looked at three tips that can help you put an effective audit program in place. Today, we’ll look at two more.
- Decide how often you should inspect.
Most safety inspection/audit programs are built around an array of inspections that take place at varying times. Many in-plant programs call for a formal monthly safety tour. Other organizations focus on a weekly round by the safety committee. Outside inspectors may show up only annually or twice yearly, depending on their function.
These special inspection activities should be in addition to:
- Daily or shift start-up checks or inspections made by mechanics and operators on their machines
- Regular, scheduled maintenance reviews made by mechanics on production equipment
- Start-of-shift checks made by forklift operators or trailer truck drivers.
Inspection frequency will depend upon on regulatory requirements and need.
- Decide how you will address audit findings
Once you have completed your audit, you’ll need to address any deficiencies that you found. Ideally, you’ll correct every deficiency quickly—but this is the real world, right? Budget and personnel constraints can prevent you from solving every problem right away, as can ordinary considerations like the length of time it takes to get a replacement part from the manufacturer or distributor. So, you’re probably going to have to prioritize your response to the audit findings.
When setting priorities, make sure that you take into account:
- The seriousness of the hazard. The most serious type of unsafe condition or unsafe work practice is one that could cause loss of life, permanent disability, the loss of a body part (amputation or crippling injury), or extensive loss of structure, equipment, or material. These hazards need to be dealt with as quickly as possible.
- The ease or difficulty of correcting the hazard. For some hazards, the fix is quick and cheap—maybe you need to pull that unsafe electrical extension cord from use and dispose of it. Perhaps you need to remind supervisors to enforce the use of hearing protection devices. But some fixes will take longer—if you need to budget time, money, or personnel, it may take longer to deal with that hazard.
Need more advice on effective self-audits? Inspect our resources at Safety.BLR.com.