How to Perform a Safety Audit (With Definition and Tips)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published May 28, 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Ensuring that all employees remain healthy and safe while working is important for an organization. Leaders often conduct routine safety audits to assess employees' practices and uncover ways to ensure the work environment remains safe and efficient. Safety inspections and audits can help you establish security procedures and minimize the risk of injuries. In this article, we explain what a safety audit is, identify why it's important, share steps you can take to perform one, and provide some helpful tips.

What is a safety audit?

A safety audit is a process that evaluates whether a work setting is safe for employees. It typically identifies workplace hazards to show how to make the area safer for the professionals working there. During an audit, a group of employees collect data regarding the company's operations. Organizational leaders may use audits to plan and improve the safety procedures their teams follow. Some situations when a company may complete an audit include the following:

  • Purchasing new technology: Acquiring new equipment can require organizational leaders to ensure employees know how to use the machines correctly. The audit findings may help managers plan training sessions that address employee concerns and track equipment and machinery use.

  • Expanding the business: When companies expand to more locations, audits can help ensure the new sites adhere to the company's safety standards. It's often important for companies to ensure that each location follows the same standards.

  • Introducing new management: One of a manager's primary responsibilities is promoting safety protocols. Safety inspections and audits can help new managers review the company's safety practices and gauge their work performance.

Important reasons to audit workplace safety

Companies audit safety primarily to protect their employees while they're working. Some additional reasons a professional may conduct an audit include:

Adhering to federal regulations

Federal and provincial governments try to protect the population by creating safety standards and requiring companies to adhere to them. For example, the government may create a standard procedure for cleaning up chemical spills that all relevant companies follow. To comply with the government, organizational leaders often perform a safety audit and submit their findings as proof to legislators that they've fulfilled the requirements.

Determining the cause of workplace injuries

If any employee experiences an injury in the workplace, professionals can perform an audit to try and discover the primary cause. The audit often includes investigating where the incident occurred. By determining the cause of the incident, organizational leaders can find a solution to help prevent other injuries from occurring. For example, if an employee slips because of a leaking pipe and injures themself, the auditor may suggest that a plumber inspects the site's pipes each month along with other safety precautions.

Showing dedication to safety in the organization

By planning routine audits, organizational leaders demonstrate the importance of safety and their commitment to safeguarding all staff members. Ensuring that the workplace is safe for all employees may encourage them to adhere to policies and report potential hazards. It's likely that external stakeholders, such as customers and clients, may trust an organization more if they perceive it as safe.

Updating safety protocols

Protocols for safety change with time. For example, the rising popularity of cell phones led some organizational leaders to forbid their use while operating heavy machinery. Performing a safety evaluation and audit can help professionals identify risks and incorporate them into company policies to help ensure all employees remain informed and cautious.

How to perform a safety audit

You can learn how to perform an effective audit by following these six steps:

1. Designate your audit team

First, consider designating a team of professionals to assess the work environment. Some companies assign internal employees to manage the audit, while others hire external consultants to gain an objective perspective. Regardless of who's a part of the audit team, it's important that employees evaluate each other's workspace and not their own. Allowing employees to evaluate their colleagues' work areas can prevent biased results. For example, if the audit aims to assess the quality control department, an employee from a different department, such as manufacturing, may perform a fairer audit.

After an organizational leader assembles an audit team, the leader confirms they understand the safety standards. The Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS) provides the team with the knowledge to identify workplace hazards and safe practices. Typically, audit teams consist of three to five employees.

2. Prepare for the audit

You and the audit team can benefit from reading the company's safety protocols and developing a checklist. On this checklist, you generally want to identify areas that might require detailed inspection. It's often important to understand how a particular location's current operations compare to the company's standards. Preparation for audits may also involve delegating tasks to specific team members. For example, two employees may interview employees while the other team members take samples.

3. Visit the work environment

Next, you can visit the work environment to conduct the audit. While examining the location, you may want to consider factors such as the following:

  • Lighting: You can assess the lighting during the audit to determine if it's bright enough for employees to view their surroundings and operate machinery safely. For example, you can ensure that lightbulbs work correctly and review the intensity of HID lamps inside a warehouse.

  • Equipment placement: You can review the equipment placement to make sure it's properly stored and easily accessible for employees. You may also examine the storage of miscellaneous tools, like ladders, to ensure they're away from pathways and secured from falling

  • Signage: You can look for the presence of hazardous materials and provide detailed signs describing the proper way to operate machinery. Although staff members receive extensive training, placing signs around the workplace reinforces safety protocols and demonstrates the organization's safety culture.

Related: 10 Important Components of an Ideal Working Environment

4. Observe professionals working

Observing professionals while they work can help you determine if they're upholding the company's safety standards. Consider watching how they handle and maintain machinery. For example, if they're driving a forklift, you can ensure they exercise caution when loading and transferring materials near walkways. Also, it's often beneficial to check if employees wear protective gear, such as goggles, helmets, and gloves. Before you conclude your visit, consider testing for any hazardous materials by taking samples. You can check equipment and measure the temperatures inside storage facilities.

5. Interview employees

It's helpful to interview the supervisor of the location you're auditing. Ask questions about how they replenish materials and train new personnel. Gain insight into how managers authorize the use of specific equipment, how they communicate their decision-making process, and how they offer directions. Here are some ideas you may want to discuss during your audit:

  • Frequency with which the organizational leader meets with employees to discuss safety protocols

  • Standard the company has in place for employees who operate heavy machinery

  • Records kept about who operates the machinery and when

  • Frequency of walkthroughs and inspections

  • Type of training new employees experience and whether it's successful

6. Evaluate the data

Once you've observed the location and collected the data, you may evaluate your findings and make conclusions about the area's adherence to safety procedures. Consider sharing any concerns with other team members. They may reaffirm or challenge your beliefs, which can lead to a better audit. Sharing information with your team can help you consider different ways to make the environment safer for all employees.

It can also help to prioritize your findings so you can encourage managers to fix urgent situations immediately. For example, if one of your samples tests positive for a hazardous substance, you may encourage management to close the area until further notice. During this ranking process, you can designate the hazards that warrant the most attention and ones that are least concerning but still require an action to avoid a greater risk.

Related: How to Learn Data Science (A Complete Guide)

Tips for performing an audit about safety

Consider following these tips when conducting an audit for safety:

Develop concise reports

It's often important for the audit team to communicate their findings in ways employees can understand. Comprehensible communication can allow organizational leaders to make the changes more easily. It can also provide future audit teams with a way to reference previous results when preparing their conclusions.

Perform audits consistently

Consider creating a schedule for audits that enables you to identify workplace hazards and follow CCOHS regulations. For example, if you've surveyed an area, you can implement a one-month deadline to re-audit the location to ensure employees implemented the proper changes. The schedule for audits may depend on the size of the organization and the work it produces. Develop a time frame that fits the company's needs and allows your team to collect data accurately.

Related: Benefits of Effective Time Management (With Actionable Tips)

Share the results of the audits

Consider distributing the audit report to all members of the organization. Employees can learn how to prevent workplace hazards in their departments and improve their practices to ensure their environment is safer. Sharing the results can also encourage teamwork. For example, managers from one division may contact the leaders of another division and offer tips for practising safety with their team members.

Please note that none of the companies, institutions, or organizations mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed.

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