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March 20, 2006
Employee Input on Safety Audits: Why? What? And How?

WHY get employees involved in safety audits? There are many good reasons. Among them:

  • Employees who perform a job every day, year in and year out, often get to know it better than anyone else. So they're ideally situated to help detect job hazards.
  • For those who don't know their jobs or the risks that well, safety audits help increase their awareness of hazards and the need for precautions.
  • Employees have a vested interest in the outcome of safety audits, so they're more likely to support and cooperate with safety audits if they're involved in the process as well.
  • After the audit, workers can use audit checklists on a daily basis to maintain a safe workplace.
  • Getting employees involved in the safety and health process enhances their interest in safety programs generally and increases their compliance with safety rules and procedures across the board.
  • By encouraging participation in safety audits, you can boost employee ownership of safety and health issues, kick up morale, and improve companywide safety performance.
  • OSHA has long been keen on employee involvement and considers it a primary component of a successful safety and health management system.

WHAT they need to know to provide useful input.

Why It Matters...
  • Audits ensure that safety and health policies and programs are actually having the positive effect they're supposed to have in the workplace.
  • They identify and correct safety and health hazards before they cause accidents or illness.
  • Audits promote confidence in the condition of the facility.
  • They also ensure that the company is operating in compliance with OSHA standards and would be able to pass an OSHA inspection.

Make sure employees understand that the purpose of safety audits is not to find fault with individuals or to place blame for safety problems. Rather, the purpose is to measure and improve safety and health performance and reduce risks. Point out that everyone benefits from safety audits because they identify hazards before they cause serious problems, thereby preventing accidents, injuries, and illness. Also let employees know which safety and health issues will be addressed by a particular audit. For employee input to be useful, workers need to know the specific areas the audit will address. Give all affected employees a copy of the audit checklist so that even if they're not officially part of the audit team, they can still be involved in the process.

HOW to get and keep them involved. To encourage maximum participation and useful input, involve workers in safety audits from the very beginning. That means getting their input in deciding which areas to audit and in developing audit checklists. Then employees must be well represented on audit teams. Employee auditors, as well as the rest of your workforce, also need to know you're going to listen to audit findings and pay attention to employee suggestions for correcting problems. They must understand that you really value their input. And when the audit is completed, they need to see that it results in real changes-that hazards are eliminated, that problems are promptly corrected, that safety performance is improved, and that as a result of the audit, everyone is safer than they were before.

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