Safety Audits: The Work Comp Playbook for Employers

There is quite a bit that you and your team can do to improve safety culture in the workplace; from screening potential new employees during the hiring process to offering safety orientations to your new hires and reinforcing them with regular safety meetings and training sessions, safety engagement comes in many forms. However, if you are serious about establishing a safe company culture, you need to ensure that your safety methods are effective and that you are complying with health and safety standards and regulations. This is where the safety audit comes in. Accountability breeds consistency, and having routine audits will create more of an incentive for your employees to establish and follow proper safety standards. Some organizations like to perform daily audits to make sure everyone is paying attention every day.

Avoid these common pitfalls

The biggest saboteur of safety audits – and overall workplace safety – is apathy. Without proper engagement, it will be very difficult for your workplace to maintain a consistently safe environment. Negative reinforcement can lead to apathy; consistently focusing on punishments and other negative responses will increase stress and discomfort in the workplace, which can lead to a 60 to 80 percent increase in workplace accidents, higher rates of disengagement (which in turn increases absenteeism and errors, and decreases profitability and job growth), and a 50 percent increase in turnover. Negative reinforcement can lead to positive results, but we recommend you balance it out with reinforcement of positive behaviors in order to prevent the workplace environment from becoming overly negative. When you conduct a safety audit, in addition to noting what needs to be replaced or revamped, make sure to acknowledge things that your employees are doing well.

Finally, once your audit has been performed it is imperative that you create an exception report to document what needs special attention. In the full version of Compass, we can produce one for you. In fact, we manage exceptions two ways. The first is was the audit done, and the second were there any items found out of compliance.  The C-level gets to see the big picture and the supervisors and employers know and understand that management is interested in safety.

Think about whether to perform an internal or external audit

If you choose, workplace audits can be performed by members of your company. In order to ensure that the audit is objective, we suggest forming an audit committee with representation from a variety of departments, and all members of the committee should be trained and regularly updated in audit procedure. Remember, when we discussed safety committees we talked about having multiple committees. The safety audit committee is a great opportunity to build team engagement. Speaking of team engagement, it you want to take your safety culture to the next level have representatives from senior management participate in an occasional safety audit. If your senior leaders do not feel confident performing an audit, we recommend having them work with third parties such as loss control and your broker during the audit. There is also the external audit option if no one in your company is able to perform one. While this is not ideal, you can use a third party risk control consultant to perform your safety audits.

Keep these additional considerations in mind

The first step to an effective auditing process is keeping it consistent. You should inform employees and managers of the upcoming audit ahead of time, and give them the opportunity to review past audits with their team. We recommend a weekly audit, but if your workplace has an effective safety culture then you can reduce them to monthly. Any less frequently than that could be risky for your workplace.

Once the audit has been performed, you should gather your team together to review and discuss its findings. Look into the recommendations and work together to develop plans of corrective action if they are necessary. These plans should be organized based on the risk level, assigned to the appropriate party to ensure that they are carried out, and given deadlines for completion and review. During the following audit, you can file these plans and review their effectiveness. Once everything else has been completed, publish the audit results to ensure that there is transparency in your company and everyone understands their responsibilities.

About Compass RMS

The risk management firm Risk Management, Inc. has specialized in workers’ compensation since 1996, creating the CWCP (Certified Workers’ Compensation Professional) program in 1999 and the P4 process in 2000. We launched our Compass Risk Management platform in 2008 and recently released version 4.0. For more information about our services, give us a call at (770) 534-2042 to speak with one of our consultants.