Running and maintaining a business includes the responsibility to keep your employees and workplace safe and secure. A safety audit is an essential process to help you ensure compliance, reduce accidents, and keep everyone safe on-site.
The staff at Lake Region Insurance Agency is here to help you find the right coverage for your business. From liability to workers’ compensation, we offer products that protect you and your company. Call or visit today for a comprehensive insurance review and quote.
What Is a Safety Audit?
A safety audit evaluates your company’s existing safety practices and programs. It systematically assesses the processes you have to determine if there are any gaps in your safety protocols. A safety audit collects data regarding employee training, record-keeping, and workplace processes.
An audit also can act as a legal buffer if something does go wrong. If you have a workplace accident or injury, proof of consistent safety audits can help mitigate problems.
An auditor looks at specific areas of a safety program when doing their assessment:
- Does it embrace industry best practices and regulatory requirements for compliance?
- Is there clear and thorough documentation of safety protocols?
- Does employee training happen regularly, and does it empower workers to follow regulations?
Is This the Same as a Safety Inspection?
A safety audit is not the same as a safety inspection. Facility inspections need to happen more frequently and look for immediate concerns in the workplace.
A safety inspection focuses on identifying immediate hazards and unsafe practices that may be present in a facility. For example, an inspection may look for dangers such as:
- Tripping Hazards
- Fire Safety Concerns
- Dangerous Substances
- Incomplete Documentation
So while an audit looks at safety systems for the business as a whole, an inspection looks for immediate and potential concerns.
A Safety Audit Helps Support OSHA Compliance
Fans of the American version of The Office might remember the episode where Michael drives a forklift in the warehouse. He has no training and ends up creating a huge mess and safety problem.
What is funny on television can put lives in danger in reality. Workplace safety is serious business.
In addition to the impact they have on employees, workplace injuries are also costly to an employer. The private sector has almost three billion non-fatal workplace injuries and illnesses each year. This number is staggering, considering how many accidents are preventable.
Companies must comply with regulations mandated by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). Safety audits are a significant part of proving adherence to these rules. Failure to comply can result in fines or even a shutdown of the business.
OSHA compliance officers can show up at a workplace unannounced for an inspection. This may be in response to an employee complaint, repeated insurance claims, or as a follow-up to a previous visit.
They will look for immediate safety threats, signs of non-compliance, and evidence to support employee concerns. Unless there are catastrophic hazards, the business owner likely will have the opportunity to fix problems before OSHA takes punitive action.
Consistent safety audits on your part as the owner will help ensure that OSHA doesn’t spot any concerns.
How Often Should I Conduct an Audit?
To truly be useful, a safety audit should happen more than once per year. A regularly-scheduled annual audit may actually be detrimental.
Knowing that an audit is approaching may cause a sudden escalation in safety measures for that window of time. But then managers relax their standards until the next audit comes around. This behavior does not support workplace safety for employees.
Instead, plan several audits throughout the year so that you can accurately assess your programs and protocols. Depending on the size of your operation, you may want to do a few smaller departmental audits and one business-wide review each year.
For example, you could do a safety audit on the manufacturing floor at one time. Later you can assess the warehouse and distribution. And at a separate time, review the sales and administrative areas.
How Do I Prepare For A Safety Audit?
First, keep in mind that a safety audit’s purpose is not to penalize you. The goal is to identify the practices and procedures that are working and those that aren’t. Ultimately, an audit serves to keep people safe.
If your staff is following appropriate practices, preparing for an audit shouldn’t be overwhelming. But it may take some time.
Gathering all documentation is one of the most critical pieces. As applicable to your business, the auditor may need to see evidence of:
- Employee Training
- Employee Certifications
- Maintenance of Fire Safety Equipment
- CPR and First Aid Training
- Food Handler Training
- Incident Reports
- Workers’ Comp Claims
The safety audit team should also review previous audits and any recommended corrections. They need to have access to all regulations at the federal, state, company, and local levels, including documentation and training requirements.
Depending on your business, you may have an internal manager who can perform inspections and audits. Or, you might need to hire an outside expert to do the job. And in some instances, you might want to use both options.
In addition to general safety compliance experts, there are also industry-specific people available. For example, the trucking and construction industries may rely on auditors with significant expertise in those sectors.
What Are the Consequences of Skipping an Audit?
Safety audits should be non-negotiable at your workplace. Ignoring this practice makes it far too likely that accidents, illnesses, or injuries will occur.
And without regular audits, repeat offenses become more common. If your company has too many violations or incidents, you could run the risk of losing your insurance.
Of course, the most significant consequence of skipping a safety audit is that someone could suffer an injury or even death. There is no way to undo the repercussions of bypassing your audits.
How Can We Help?
Lake Region Insurance Agency has a staff of highly-qualified independent agents. We work hard to protect your hard work.
Your business deserves protection on every level, and we are here to provide it. With team members in New London, Willmar, and Cokato, MN, we can serve you and your business confidently and conveniently. Reach out today to get started.