BLR Featured, EHS Administration

Safety Self-Audits Prevent Accidents and Protect Employees

Systematic evaluation of your company’s workplace and safety practices is integral to your safety plan. A voluntary safety self-audit is critical in achieving environment, health, and safety (EHS) compliance. It can make a substantial difference in accident prevention and help you be prepared for unannounced Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) inspections.

A safety self-audit evaluates safety programs and practices within an organization to determine whether your company complies with current safety regulations and identifies weaknesses in your safety programs. Employers conducting a self-audit should:

  • Measure and collect information about a safety program’s reliability and effectiveness.
  • Look at whether a safety program meets the company’s stated goals.
  • Examine safety training and response efforts.

Companies must establish an audit frequency that is appropriate for the business. Your organization can perform audits monthly, quarterly, twice a year, or once a year. How often you audit depends on the size of your organization, the complexity of your processes, and the degree of risk associated with the activities carried out in the operation of your business.

Identifying what to audit

You can audit anything that has a standard with which performance can be compared. There are several indicators that you can use to determine audit priorities, including:

  • The OSHA 300 log and the first-aid log. These logs highlight safety and health problems that need attention. The logs may reveal that audits are needed for particular:
    • Departments, work areas, or processes;
    • Employee categories (i.e., new employees; people in a specific job, like machine operators; or warehouse workers); or
    • Parts of the body that seem injury-prone, such as eyes, back, etc.
  • Workers’ compensation information for injury trends and work areas that seem to have the most injuries or illnesses.
  • “Near-miss” incidents. Things like electrical shorts or slips and falls should be followed up on, even if no one was hurt.
  • Employee complaints are another indicator of an area that may need to be audited, so it’s essential to report any safety problems.

Once the subject of the self-audit is identified, a checklist must be developed to ensure you address all the appropriate hazards. The best way to ensure you don’t miss any hazards is to involve people on all levels of the company in the process.

Conducting the safety self-audit

The individuals selected for the audit must be trained and have in-depth knowledge of the operations being audited and the applicable safety regulations and standards. If you’re auditing a highly technical process, you need people with the right expertise.

Auditors may be supervisors, employees, or a team of both. In some cases, plant managers participate as well.

Addressing safety self-audit results

No matter how much time and effort go into planning and preparing for safety self-audits, they’re only as good as the follow-up on the problems identified. Once an audit is completed and reviewed, problems must be addressed and corrected in order of importance—meaning those most likely to cause injury or illness should be addressed first—but all the issues must be addressed. Someone should be designated and made responsible for ensuring that happens.

Often, a general audit may lead to one or more specific audits. It may uncover several hazards in one particular department or operation or a single hazard that needs to be better addressed facility-wide. In such cases, a more specific audit on a particular area or hazard will provide more focus and help you determine whether you need better equipment maintenance, additional training, or some other remedy to eliminate the risks.

OSHA’s policy on voluntary safety self-audits

OSHA developed a policy describing the agency’s treatment of voluntary employer self-audits that assess workplace safety and health conditions, including compliance with the Occupational Safety and Health Act. The policy provides that the agency will not routinely request self-audit reports at the initiation of an inspection and will not use self-audit reports to identify hazards on which to focus during an inspection.

Where a voluntary safety self-audit identifies a hazardous condition that violates a regulation and the employer has corrected the condition before an OSHA inspection is initiated (or a related accident, illness, or injury that triggers the OSHA inspection) and has taken appropriate steps to prevent the recurrence of the condition, OSHA will refrain from issuing a citation, even if the condition existed within the 6-month period during which the agency is authorized to issue citations.

Where a voluntary safety self-audit identifies a hazardous condition and the employer promptly undertakes appropriate measures to correct the violative condition and to provide interim employee protection but has not entirely corrected the violative condition when an OSHA inspection occurs, the agency will treat the audit report as evidence of good faith and not as evidence of a willful violation.

Decision to audit

Before conducting a voluntary safety self-audit, remember that you must be fully prepared to correct any unsafe conditions and work practices you discover, including setting aside money and resources to do the job. If you conduct an audit, find a serious hazard, and then do nothing about it, you will expose yourself (and your employees) to a host of negative consequences.

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Business and Learning Resources (BLR), a division of Simplify Compliance, LLC, is an industry-leading knowledge provider with more than 40 years of experience in human capital management, environmental, health, and safety; learning and development; and legal markets. BLR® provides innovative education solutions designed to help businesses deliver consistent training, achieve compliance, and maximize efficiencies in employee workflows, resulting in measurable performance and financial improvements.

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