Is everything in your workplace safe? Have you complied with all the regulations that apply? Are workers following safe procedures at all times? If you can’t say, “yes” to these questions, you may need an audit.
A safety audit is more than a quick look around. It’s defined as a planned and documented observation and evaluation of the workplace, looking at a specific set of behaviours or information. Audits can be targeted at many different safety issues.
- General workplace safety, such as eliminating clutter;
- Technical aspects, such as fire or electrical safety;
- Procedures such as machine guarding or lockout; and
- Regulatory compliance, such as occupational health and safety, or transportation regulations.
Keeping track of your observations is important. Auditors will use a checklist of things to look for, and to evaluate them in an objective format. An example of a checklist for office safety can be found on CCOHS’s website. Note that checklists should identify specific issues, and either judge them on a pass/fail scale, or a more detailed format that may grade performance as excellent/satisfactory/poor/unacceptable.
While there are many resources available, your checklist should be customized for your specific workplace. The safety concerns in an office setting are quite different from those in a manufacturing area. Also, generic checklists may not address the regulations that apply to your workplace. For example, a checklist designed for the United States will include requirements under OSHA (Occupational Health and Safety Administration), while one for Canada must address the somewhat different requirements of WHMIS (Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System). Other regulations, such as fire codes, will vary from location to location; sometimes even municipal regulations must be addressed, particularly if the audit covers environmental compliance.
When designing an audit, try to look at all aspects of safety in the workplace, not just the obvious ones, such as missing machine guards. Start by looking at your organization’s overall safety system. Does management have a commitment to safety? Is there an effective and active joint health and safety committee? Are supervisors trained and aware of all regulations and safety protocols, so that they qualify as “competent persons”?
Always keep records of the audit, indicating who performed it and when, as well as a copy of any checklists or other records, such as photographs. A clear record that the workplace is audited on a regular basis is good evidence of due diligence if an inspector comes to your site.
Anyone can perform a basic audit, if they understand the applicable safety requirements in the work area. In fact, getting workers involved in auditing is a great way to increase awareness of safety issues. However, specialized audits, such as those related to the various ISO standards like ISO 9001 or 14001, may require auditors who are specially certified.
If you have any questions regarding audits, or if we can assist you with an audit, please fill out this form or contact ICC Compliance Center directly at 1-888-442-9628 (USA) or 1-888-977-4834 (Canada).