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Safety Audits: Two Approaches

F Marie Athey OHST

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F Marie Athey OHST | May 10, 2013 | Comments Off on Safety Audits: Two Approaches

Safety Audits: Two Approaches

Is your business ready for a safety audit?

If not, how will you prepare?

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is the federal agency responsible for enforcing safety and health legislation. Implementing OSHA rules in the workplace falls to Environment, Health and Safety (EHS) departments in businesses and government agencies. EHS departments might be known by other names, but they’re all responsible for measuring the effectiveness of their company’s health and safety program.

And how do they do this?

It’s accomplished through safety audits. This is how risks are identified, job hazards are assessed, use of personal protective equipment is verified and record-keeping (including documentation about training) is reviewed. An audit will designate an employee (usually a manager or supervisor) to serve as OSHA liaison in the event of an actual OSHA inspection. Essentially, the audit gives the company a chance to go through a simulation of the actual OSHA inspection process.

How are audits conducted? What are the best ways businesses are audited to ensure regulatory compliance? Let’s look at two ways businesses go about this:

Internal Audits

Is someone at your company trained to conduct safety audits? Having safety under the purview of your company’s management means having someone on-site who knows the company and its functions inside and out. An internal auditor is usually empowered to make the changes that need to be made across all departments. Having a safety professional on your team also encourages an ongoing evaluation of the company’s safety program. Continuous improvement is a key aspect of effective EHS programs.

An on-staff auditor must have the appropriate training to know what to look for. The safety coordinator must be up-to-date on all industry regulations or else he or she may not be able to identify problems with your safety program.

External Audits

External auditors are in a good position to compare your company to companies of similar size in your industry. An unbiased expert will have experience conducting safety audits in a wide range of businesses. On the downside, an external auditor may not have a strong grasp on how your company operates. He or she may also not have the unrestricted access that a truly comprehensive audit requires. These inspectors are often seen as the “bad guys” because it’s their job to point out incorrect behavior—some of which may have been going on for years.

External auditors can also disrupt production when they have to monitor safety protocols and conduct interviews while they are visiting the site.

Audits can be the best way to minimize your chances of OSHA violations and penalties. Whether you do them internally or externally, they compel management to review safety policies and procedures to make sure they are current and implemented into daily practice. If you’ve gotten any OSHA citations in the past, audits will help you avoid further violations.

Whether your company ends up contracting with external auditors or making EHS a permanent position within the organization, workplace safety courses from will make employee and management training easier to administer and more cost efficient for the company. Our programs cover HAZWOPER, Environmental, Construction, General Industry and OSHAcampus training. If you’re in the process of setting up your company’s EHS program, or if you already have one in place and are trying to determine how to conduct audits, can help you make the next step.

Our industry has seen OSHA stepping up its compliance and enforcement in recent years, and businesses must be ready to deal with the inevitable inspection. Compliance audits make good business sense. Not only will they reduce the risk violations; they’ll help you ensure the health and safety of everyone at your job site.

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