Safety audits, inspections,

and corrective actions

One of the best ways to mitigate workplace accidents is by regularly conducting safety audits and inspections.

Having a comprehensive safety auditing and inspection program can go a long way in maintaining a safe and compliant operation.

Safety audits and inspections allow companies to ensure their organization is following regulations, meeting internal company goals, and will identify problems so that corrective actions can be implemented.

Differences between safety audits and safety inspections

Safety audits and safety inspections are two different processes that differ in scope and duration. Auditing involves accountability and will look at the big picture while inspections are narrower in focus and may be conducted as part of a required compliance obligation.

Safety audits evaluate the organization’s safety programs, policies, and practices to gauge its reliability and effectiveness. Safety audits are conducted less frequently but are more extensive than safety inspections.

Audits may take days to weeks to complete. Safety inspections examine the day-to-day processes and workspaces to determine if safeguards are in place, identify hazards, focus on hazard communication, and observe work practices to identify unsafe actions.

Safety inspections are more frequent and target a specific task, equipment, or work function. These may take a few minutes to a few hours.

Tips for safety auditing

Prepare: When preparing for an audit, it is important to determine the scope and objectives. If applicable, review the previous audits to understand prior findings and recommendations.

Proper planning is necessary to identify the key components of whom, what, and where. Who will conduct the audit? This may be a single auditor or an audit team with specialized expertise.

What is the audit scope? Know what policies, procedures, and processes will be a part of the audit. Where will be the audit focus? Targeted areas of the workplace can be designated as necessary.

Lastly, decide how best to capture the audit information. Some auditors use a checklist while others create a narrative report by taking notes of observations. It is up to the auditor and organization on deciding which method may be best.

Conducting the audit: Audits are meant to assess and improve the organization’s safety policies, procedures, and processes, which are the foundation of employee safety.

Audits can be used to monitor progress toward safety goals and future audits can identify if recommendations are being implemented effectively.

A review of the written plans, procedures, and other documents will assist the auditor in developing a baseline to compare with what is occurring.

The review will allow the auditor to look for strengths and weaknesses present in the safety program. Communicating with the managers and employees will provide additional insight into how well the company’s safety program is being executed and understood by personnel.

Report findings and make recommendations: After the audit is complete, all notes and observations should be compiled into a report that summarizes findings. Be sure to notate who conducted the audit, areas that were audited, and identify interviewed personnel.

A great report will be concise and objective, reporting both the positive and negative findings exposed during the audit. To conclude the audit report, provide a complete list of recommended actions and areas that can be improved.

Tips for Safety Inspections

Scope and frequency: Determine what the safety inspection will cover and how often the inspections need to occur. The scope of the safety inspections may include a variety of methods: general safety tour to inspect the workplace, safety surveys or sampling to examine specific activities/processes / areas, or incident inspections (investigating near miss/incident / accident).

The frequency can depend on several factors: guidelines from a regulatory agency, incident/accident frequency rate, introduction of new processes/equipment, number of shifts, number of man-hours worked, or complexity of operation (number, size, and potential risk of different operations or equipment).

Safety regulations and standards must be considered when developing an inspection checklist or when preparing to observe conditions. Similar to safety audits the inspector must decide whether to use checklists or make notes of observations.

Conducting the inspection: Some inspections may be scheduled or unscheduled. For scheduled inspections, ensure the department personnel is aware so they are prepared to avoid disruption to the workflow.

For unscheduled inspections, ensure that personnel is aware that unscheduled inspections are a part of the safety program so there won’t be surprises. During the inspection, the safety inspector may find hazardous conditions or acts that will need to be corrected on the spot.

In these cases, operations may need to be stopped. Communicate to the personnel and management team the immediate concern and remedy that will be documented in the final inspection report. Other issues not presenting an immediate hazard will be documented, prioritized, and require the development of a corrective action plan.

Final safety inspection report: The final report will document the findings of the inspection and identify any completed on-the-spot corrections or the need for a corrective action plan. Provide conclusive reasoning for any non-conformances and recommendations for consideration.

Safety regulations may require the retention of safety inspection reports for certain equipment or processes. Ensure you know the regulations and maintain records appropriately.

Audit and inspection results: Corrective action priorities and plans

Both safety audits and inspections can identify the need for major or minor corrective actions that may need to happen immediately or over time as a continual improvement. It is up to the organization’s management team to ensure the results of audits and inspections are used to improve the safety of the company.

For multiple identified corrective actions, prioritization based on risk and hazards should be conducted first. Safety procedures should be in place to ensure that responsible personnel will develop a corrective action plan and complete specific actions by a set date.

Corrective action plans should include measures to correct the safety issue and along with preventative measures to prevent reoccurrence.