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A safety audit is a methodical, well-planned investigation of workplace practices to evaluate how they affect the health and safety of employees.

Some safety audits are designed to assess the overall system to ensure compliance with OSHA regulations and internal policies. Other safety audits are conducted to ensure that employees are following safe practices and procedures.

Internal audits are a great way to drive continual improvement. Audits also encourage awareness and participation by all team members.

What Types of Safety Audits Should Be Conducted?

There are 2 main types of internal safety audits that organizations routinely perform.

1. Management System Audits

This type of audit looks at the structure of the entire company to ensure that proper policies and procedures have been put in place.

Auditors must be trained in the appropriate safety standard to be able to successfully conduct the audit.

In the United States, the most common standard is ISO 45001, which is titled “Occupational Health and Safety Management Systems.” The standard explains the requirements and gives direction regarding the procedures that are needed to ensure compliance.

Training involves several days of classroom instruction and hands-on auditing practice.

Management system audits are beneficial for many reasons. They can:

  • Identify risks in the office and production areas and quantify the severity of the risks
  • Determine if the processes and procedures in place are compliant with the requirements
  • Identify strengths and weaknesses in the system
  • Drive continual improvement efforts
  • Ensure that resources are available to adequately address any weaknesses
  • Eliminate unsafe work practices and remove hazards

These audits are usually conducted semiannually or annually once the system is in place.

2. Safety Function Audits

These audits are designed to ensure that specific activities are handled according to plan. 

Examples of safety function audits include:

  • Manual tasks – Ensure that workers have the proper safety instructions available
  • Inspection tags – Make sure that equipment inspections and activities are recorded at proper intervals
  • Isolation and tagout – Check prohibited areas for proper signage
  • Noise – Verify that employees are wearing proper hearing protection
  • Safety awareness – Talk with employees to make sure they are aware of safety protocols
  • Emergency preparedness – Conduct fire drills and other safety events to ensure employees follow directions

Safety function audits are conducted more frequently than management system audits.

Depending on the size of the company, the audits can be rotated to cover different functions each month. The main benefit of regular audits is that the address problems as they happen.

6 Steps to Successful Safety Audits

Management system audits require a lot more planning than safety function audits, but successful audits follow 6 organized steps.

1. Prepare for the Audit

This includes alerting team members of the upcoming audit, determining the audit scope and setting a timeline for completion.

2. Review Documentation

Review past audit corrective actions for follow-up actions. Become familiar with procedures and work instructions that apply to the audit scope.

3. Review Findings After the Audit

Once the audit is complete, gather data from all auditors and construct a thorough report.

4. Make Recommendations

Report the deficiencies to the appropriate team leaders. Many companies use a structured problem solving method, such as the “8 Disciplines of Problem Solving”.

The 8-D format focuses on permanent corrective actions by determining the root cause of the problem. An initial planning stage is sometimes added to the original 8 disciplines.

5. Take Corrective Actions

Supervisors in the affected departments are responsible for determining effective corrective actions, but they must involve other members of the team to complete the process.

6. Publish Results

Report the basic findings and recommendations to all team leaders.

Workplace safety audits are critical to ensure that safety policies and procedures are followed. More importantly, audits successfully reduce the risk of injuries and accidents in the workplace.