Is it Time for Your Safety Audit?

As you face yet another year as a successful business owner, it’s time to take stock of your company’s safety components and make tweaks where necessary. The new year is always a great time to perform a safety audit — it’s a time for resolutions, beginning anew, tackling new challenges and gearing up for a productive 12 months in 2014. Keeping your employees safe is key to running a business, not to mention it keeps you in compliance with regulations. Why not take the time for your safety audit before the month is out?

What is a Safety Audit?

A safety audit is an important tool businesses use to enhance the safety of the workplace, designed to be carried out on a regular basis to ensure that all processes, machines and equipment are working as they should. The safety audit not only shows what’s working well but it also shows what’s not working and what could be improved. It’s a reality check of sorts for any business, acting as a critical assessment tool that lets you know what needs to be fixed to enhance the safety and productivity of everyone in the building. Auditing can take place as part of a mandatory scheduling in some industries overseen by government, for example, while other types of companies can perform independent, internal audits. The results of the audit are meant to determine if activities, operations and equipment are conforming to standards and whether or not those standards are implemented in the most effective ways. All audits should follow a company’s policies and objectives. There are many types of audits depending on the field you’re in, such as health and safety, process and product safety, and environmental safety. Audits can take place in virtually any industry at any time, from hospitals to government offices to the private sector.

Taking a Snapshot of Your Business

Performing a safety audit is like taking a snapshot of your company at a fixed point in time. Is the equipment working properly? More importantly, are employees using the equipment in the proper way? Are ISO standards being followed, if applicable? From operations to housekeeping to chemical storage, there are myriad factors to consider when performing a safety audit. As the employer, it’s a good idea to make informal audits a regular occurrence. It keeps you in the loop of what’s going on within your company at the most fundamental level and it allows you to have a handle on what you still need to achieve to meet compliance standards or even exceed them. Depending on the type of business you run, you may be required by law to have an external audit done every so often, whether yearly or more frequently, such as six months. Audits can be scheduled or unannounced. The purpose of the audit is to ensure employees are wearing the proper safety gear, lifting heavy items properly and practicing good hygiene techniques, for example. The results can uncover unsafe behaviors and conditions, helping to analyze safety procedures and programs and how they can be improved, showing in real time what’s going on. You have an opportunity to improve and change things based on the results, so the next audit may reveal your implementations. An audit also gives you an idea of not only what you need to change but also what you don’t. Save resources, time and money by focusing only on those components that you need to. Use this opportunity to help guide you in your next year’s safety budget as well.

Tips for Safety Audits

safety-tipsFirst and foremost, aim for small, targeted areas of audits so as not to become overwhelmed by the sheer size of your business and what it comprises. Rather than do a walk through of the entire facility at once, dedicate one day or one week to each department, floor, process or office — whichever makes more sense for you. This gives you short, do-able lists that you can actually tackle and complete on a timely, consistent basis. No one wants a huge list of to-do’s. This can be daunting and you may never even get to all the actionable items. Instead, split them up into easily digestible chunks. Second, dip deep. Rather than walk through the facility and make general inspections and observations, get into the minutiae that aren’t as easy to spot, from maintenance to procedural records. Third, have a plan for your audit before you blindly go out and start inspecting. Share with the auditors on your team what the objective of the audit is and provide them with supporting materials, company procedural documents and checklists. Fourth, when the audit is over, don’t just breathe a sigh of relief and throw the results in a drawer. Address them as quickly as possible to correct the problems noted before accidents and citations happen. And finally, prioritize what needs to be done right away and what can be put off for a bit because it will take more time to complete. Dedicate resources to the most immediate safety concerns, then prioritize the other more time-consuming tasks based on why corrective actions need to be done, as well as when and how. Required OSHA regulations take precedence over those that are not necessary from a legal perspective, for example.

Starting off your new-year audit for 2014 in January gives you a fresh perspective on your company and allows you to recharge how you will approach safety issues and concerns going forward.

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