Are internal safety audits really necessary? OSHA audits probably seem “bad enough,” especially if you ask the workers and administrators who feel like their every move is being scrutinized. Nobody likes being put under the microscope, and extra inspections cost time, money and morale.
Still, the benefits of in-house audits far outweigh the downside. They may require additional upfront investments, but the long-term savings more than make up for it.
The benefits of internal audits include:
The number one reason to conduct in-house safety audits is to prepare for mandatory OSHA Inspections. When OSHA discovers problems at a worksite, companies face citations, levies and hefty fines. One too many OSHA issues can even result in the shutdown of a site. Ultimately, it’s in any company’s best interest to uncover and address safety concerns before OSHA arrives.
Accidents and illnesses hurt employees and employers alike, so why wait for OSHA to mandate safer policies? Regular internal audits reduce incidents, both in the short term and long term. They may not be popular among workers, but a safer workplace will be.
Finally, in-house audits increase buy-in to new safety policies among workers. External audits often feel like something employees have to prepare for when necessary and will forget soon after.
By taking the initiative to root out safety problems internally, safety managers and workers end up working together – consistently – to create a safer workplace.
So, how do you properly prepare for an OSHA audit? Here are a few strategies you can use to make sure your internal audits cover everything the government expects – and then some.
Review frequent citations
OSHA inspectors are always going to be on the lookout for the biggest problems in the last year or two. For 2014, the 10 most frequent citations were:
- Fall Protection
- Hazard Communication
- Respiratory Protection
- Powered Industrial Trucks
- Lockout / Tagout
- Electrical Wiring Methods
- Machine Guarding
- General Electrical Requirements
Spotting danger may be the safety manager’s main job, but nobody knows the hazards of specific tasks like the workers who perform them. In addition to inspecting worksites themselves, auditors should ask employees about their most common concerns during their workdays. They may discover problems they never would have found otherwise.
Establish Operating Procedures
Most companies create standard procedures for complying with OSHA and handling auditors. They should do the same for in-house inspections! Establish a team of auditors, appoint a leader and conduct the necessary training sessions to bring inspectors up to speed. This process may include appointing workers from different departments to the safety team as well.
Implement Immediate Corrective Actions
Any inspection is only as useful as the changes it effects. Non-compliant procedures should be corrected as quickly as possible, whether or not there’s an upcoming OSHA inspection. To make changes efficiently, use an action management software tool to assign tasks and track their completion.
For more tips on proactively creating safer jobsites, download our free resource, How to Pass Your OSHA Audit with Flying Colors.