Site Safety Audit
by Ron Pettit, Loss Control Specialist, Harry A. Koch Company
A very common problem arises when the safety person doing a site safety audit becomes too dependent on checklists. It creates a tendency to focus on specifics, rather than the causes. It is also a challenge for safety professionals to gain a balance between being supportive and providing an honest assessment.
The makings of a good site safety audit includes communication between all parties and throwing out the bad cop attitude. The auditor needs a level head and have some flexibility towards getting the job done in a safe manner; it may not be exactly what you want. Over time site supervisors or production managers can complain that the program is becoming a problem and the safety audits start to become vague to the point that they do not identify specific problems.
Under OSHA, safety audits may be voluntary, or they may be required. In a voluntary audit, the facility conducts the audit to evaluate compliance status or to identify any suspected problems. However, audits can be mandatory if they are part of the settlement of an enforcement action between a governmental agency and your company. EPA and OSHA regularly include an audit requirement in their settlement agreements with companies that have significant environmental or safety violations.
Site safety audits are a very useful tool to help identify and correct hazardous situations for workers’, along with addressing safety for the general public and the environment. They not only improve workplace safety but also help identify and reduce areas of company liability. Audit reports should offer solid recommendations for specific actions.
An auditor is there to observe and record, not to tell a supervisor that they have failed to meet a standard and what must be done to address the issue. Audits should be focused evaluations, designed to ensure continuous improvement within a company and its contracted labor. These audits are usually done by persons from the company or a sister company, but they may also utilize third parties. Problem solving, correcting and communicating is the responsibility of the management process, not the audit process.
Problems may exist when a company employee has to grade a site safety audit. Since they are paid by the company and may not want to create a problem, grades tend to become satisfactory instead of a failure. Management can become dependent on scores rather than hazards addressed in the audit.
A good audit demonstrates a proactive approach by the company to identifying and mitigating safety concerns. Lastly, audits that are not followed up on for corrective action and preventative action can leave a company open to liability exposure due to a hazardous situation that was discovered but no action was taken and there was never a closer date to show it was corrected.