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December 11, 2013
Critical safety audit issues

The new year is a good time to start planning a safety audit and setting your safety and health goals for the coming year. Before conducting an audit, though, you need to address some practical and legal considerations.

How much will the audit cost? A comprehensive safety and health audit can involve a significant investment of resources. Control audit expenses by asking:

  • Do I need a consultant? Unless you have technically complex issues, you probably don’t need a paid consultant. Or you may only need a paid consultant for technically complex portions of the inspection.
  • Do I have the manpower in-house? If your managers are cross-trained, you may be able to use managers from one department to audit another. If you have a safety committee, you can draw some of your audit personnel from the committee.
  • Will my insurance carrier help? Your liability insurer may provide risk manage management resources, including personnel, for the audit.
  • What legal services are already available to me? If your employer has an attorney on the payroll or on retainer, any necessary legal services should have a marginal cost.

What are my audit priorities? To maximize the return on your investment, always begin with the arrears of highest risk or broadest exposure.

  • Highest priority should be given to detecting hazards or violations most likely to cause serious injuries or cause injury to the largest number of people.
  • Lowest priority can be given to hazards that are unlikely to occur, even if they could cause serious injury, or to hazards that are unlikely to endanger human life.

What about correction and abatement? Following your audit, you will have damning evidence of any potential hazards in your facility. It is vital that you:

  • Correct serious hazards in a timely way. If you’re inspected later, and an inspector discovers that you knew about a hazard and did not correct it, you could receive a willful citation.
  • Limit the distribution of records. Some documents can be made available for the asking—to auditors, employees and their representatives, and OSHA inspectors—but others require more care.
    • Low-security documents include inspection checklists, safety committee inspection reports, and meeting minutes.
    • High-security documents include accident or serious injury investigator’s reports, documentation of serious violations, and unabated hazards. These documents may contain sensitive or confidential information and might need to be redacted before they are released.
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