There's no one "right" way to assess the effectiveness of workplace safety programs. OSHA citations, days away from work, and employee complaints all reflect elements of a company's culture of safety.
Yet safety inspections and safety audits approach the challenge of worker well-being from different angles. Safety inspections look for hazards, risks, and other tactics that might prevent a company from operating safely. Meanwhile, safety audits examine whether programs and strategies are meeting a company's goals.
Both are important components of a workplace safety plan. Here's a closer look at the relationship between the efforts, OSHA requirements, and more.
A safety inspection looks for safety hazards and unsafe practices throughout a facility. The inspection should:
Determine whether safeguards are in place
Examine whether the equipment presents any hazards
Gather air, water, and other samples to test for hazardous substances
Observe work practices to identify unsafe actions
Once recognized, any hazards present can be rectified, eliminated, or accounted for.
Similarities Between a Safety Inspection and Safety Audit
There are several similarities between safety inspections and safety audits:
Broad goals: Both strive for a safer workplace that complies with all regulations and standards.
Safety checklists: Both may use a safety checklist that includes relevant OSHA standards, best practices, and other recommended precautions.
OSHA requirements: OSHA does not require safety audits or inspections, but the agency views both as components of an effective safety plan.
Differences Between a Safety Inspection and Safety Audit
For all their similarities, a few key differences separate safety inspections and safety audits.
Scope: An audit reviews safety programs and strategies, while an inspection examines current tactics and routine employee actions.
Responsible parties: Safety inspections are usually performed by those familiar with the workplace, while independent employees (whether from outside the company or in another department) should conduct a safety audit.
How Does OSHA View Safety Audits?
OSHA does not request safety audit reports before conducting an inspection. That said, OSHA may request audits as part of an ongoing review.
Should a voluntary audit identify a hazardous condition, OSHA looks at the following:
Has the employer corrected the hazardous condition before an inspection?
Has the employer taken appropriate steps to prevent a recurrence?
If a permanent solution isn't in place, has the employer provided interim employee protection?
If the above is true, OSHA will treat the audit as evidence of good faith and will not issue a citation.
Duralabel Safety Solutions
Develop an inspection and audit program with Duralabel Facility Safety Audit Guide. The free guide provides solutions that help employers: