Safety inspections and safety audits are critical tools in achieving EHS compliance. But while they’re often used interchangeably, they’re actually two different processes designed to address two different aspects of workplace safety management.
Not sure about the gap between inspection vs. audit? Here are a few key differences and when you need an inspection or an audit.
A safety inspection is a formalized process of documenting safety hazards and unsafe practices in your workplace. They come in many different forms depending on what is being tested and the unique hazards faced by your organization.
This is typically conducted by a certified safety inspector. They can be completed internally by your safety team or externally by a third-party organization, like the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).
A safety audit is similar in principle, but the focus is slightly different.
A safety audit also examines hazards but through a degree of removal. It looks at your organization’s processes and procedures related to safety and health.
Audits generally serve two purposes:
- To determine whether your company is compliant with current safety regulations
- To identify weaknesses in your safety programs
Note that these goals may be entirely separate. A program may be compliant with safety regulations but still have critical weaknesses that leave your workers at risk of harm.
An audit uses a structured process to examine whether your company is compliant and to check for weaknesses. Keep in mind that an internal audit can also be used to determine whether your program is meeting the goals your organization set, like reducing the number of injuries.
Inspection vs. Audit
With that in mind, let’s talk about the similarities and differences between an inspection and an audit.
Both are structured processes of examination used to promote workplace safety. Both may be conducted internally or externally, though safety audits are often conducted externally.
The biggest difference between the two is what they focus on.
Safety inspections focus on the hazards in your work environment, as well as hazard communication. Safety audits, on the other hand, focus on the processes your organization uses to address these hazards and protect workers.
So, for example, a safety audit could be conducted to determine whether your organization has effective safety inspection processes.
Safety inspections generally benefit from the eye of someone who is familiar with the workplace, which is why they’re often conducted internally. Safety audits, on the other hand, can benefit from an objective outsider’s perspective to look at a program without bias.
Both have their place in your organization, and both can play a critical role in improving safety in the workplace. You just have to know when to use each and how to make the most of your findings in either case.
Taking Charge of Your Safety Responsibilities
Whether you need a safety inspection or a safety audit depends on the issue you’re trying to address. At the end of the day, the difference between an inspection vs. audit is a matter of focus. Do you need to focus on hazards, or the processes to prevent hazards? The short answer? You need both. But managing your team to ensure maximum efficiency is an undertaking in its own right.