EHS Management

5 Things to Consider When Looking for EHS Inspection Checklists

Are you looking in the right places for checklists to use in your audits or inspections? Random checklists downloaded off the web can let you down. The right EHS management system will have you covered.

1. What are the differences and similarities between inspections and audits?

An inspection is typically a simple check based on your facility’s regulatory requirements, while an audit is a deeper examination not only of your compliance, but also of policies, procedures, and processes. In fact, an Environment, Health, and Safety (EHS) audit might include an assessment of your routine inspection procedures.

An inspection might involve a visual check of your equipment and workplace conditions yielding a short list of corrective actions that doesn’t require a deep background in regulatory affairs or knowledge of EHS obligations.

Audits are typically performed less frequently than inspections, require a more thorough review of processes and procedures, and are conducted by those with expertise and experience in specific disciplines. In order to maintain impartiality, audits are usually conducted by third-parties such as a corporate audit team, employees from different sites, or external consultants. An EHS audit will usually produce a more thorough report with extensive lists of findings along with recommendations that require review by upper-level management before corrective actions are created, assigned, and executed.

In short, inpections tend to focus on the “what” while audits dig deeper into the “why.” What they both share, however, are the use of checklists that serve as guides throughout the process, alerting inspectors or auditors to requirements, issues, and concerns to be addressed. Unfortunaely, not all checklists are created equal…

2. Who created the checklist and how long ago was it created?

The quick and easy approach might involve downloading an online inspection checklist or using one shared in a conference workshop. The problems with “generic” checklists are twofold: they may miss issues, questions, and topics relevant to your facility or operations. They could also waste your time with items that don’t apply to your location, or the work being done there.

If you use a shared checklist provided through a mobile app or downloaded from the web, you likely don’t know who compiled the checklist or whether the items on the list are accurate and current. Going to the opposite extreme, contracting with EHS consultants to compile curated checklists can be effective but add time and expense to your inspection before it even begins. Checklists created by consultants might also be overly comprehensive for your routine compliance inspections and they will need to be continually updated, at additional expense, as requirements and conditions change.

3. What questions do you need to ask for inspections of your facility and operations?

What should you be checking to ensure your EPA and OSHA compliance? Before you can perform an inspection, you need to confirm which regulations and standards apply. An applicability analysis for your facility and operations will give you a better understanding of your specific regulatory requirements and indicate what questions you need to include on your checklists. Having site-specific regulatory profiles and a regulatory database to back them up will help you generate the checklists you need.

Generic checklists will not provide applicability assurance and may not even be clear about the requirements you’re trying to check. Having clarification of and guidance to regulatory requirements will enable your teams to respond appropriately to the items in your inspection checklists.

4. How do you provide clarification or guidance and where do you find it?

Without clarification and guidance, different users working off the same checklist may log different responses, they may even miss things. Even the same user may fill out a checklist differently on separate occasions. Your teams need clarification and guidance to ensure they complete checklists accurately and consistently.

Any inconsistencies can complicate inspections and make it difficult to compare and prioritize your EHS compliance risks.

When you’re performing an EHS inspection, you need ready access to the EPA or OSHA requirements themselves to ensure your checklist response reflects an accurate check of those requirements.

To answer a checklist question accurately, you may even need to refer to definitions in the regulatory text. For example, do you know what a “manlift” is? OSHA defines it as a vertical belt with steps or platforms and handholds attached to it for personnel moving from floor to floor. For clarification and guidance on your EHS compliance, you need a regulatory database covering all applicable EPA and OSHA requirements.

5. When are simple checklists appropriate and when are they not?

Sometimes all you need is a simple checklist with Yes-No questions. These are appropriate for your regular, routine checks. For example, are your portable fire extinguishers properly maintained? This would require you to visually inspect fire extinguishers monthly for certain parameters.

Experience matters too, even with a simple checklist. The person performing the inspection needs enough knowledge of compliance issues to understand the significance of the words and phrases used in the checklist.

Sometimes EHS compliance involves an area or issue of higher risk; and your checklists needs to reflect that. When this is the case you need more robust checklists where specific scope or conditions apply. These checklists need a level of sophistication appropriate to the compliance issues you’re trying to check. A lack of clarity or poorly worded checklist items can leave your teams frustrated and burned-out.


Regardless if you are conducting simple visual inspections or comprehensive wall-to-wall audits, using checklists that are relevant and up-to-date is critical for establishing EHS compliance. In addition to the right checklist questions you must consider what supporting information is needed to ensure the inspections are being conducted accurately and consistently. This may include explanations of EPA and OSHA requirements along with relevant industry standards like ISO 14000, ISO 45000, and Responsible Care Management Systems. What happens when you’ve done your inspection? Then you need a system to flag and track any issues or corrective actions identified during your inspection.

Check out the product demo video to see how Dakota Auditor can help you with site-specific profiles that reflect your unique regulatory exposure and can generate consistent, accurate checklists for your inspections and audits.

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