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Audits, Analysis, and Assessments – The Trilogy

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What would you imagine someone saying if they were told to perform a job hazard analysis? What about a risk assessment? Heaven forbid the company has to have someone come in for a safety audit! Hopefully there aren’t too many disagreeable groans when this news is relayed to employees. In fact, those three safety procedures should be welcomed into the workplace as they have the potential to save lives and eliminate hazards in work environments—whether that be from carelessness, broken equipment, or lack of proper training.

What is a Safety Audit?

Let’s begin with the less frequent, but consistent, safety audit/inspection. While these types of inspections are not required by OSHA, safety audits are strongly recommended, and most times compliment any safety plan within a company. The goal when auditing a facility is to gather as much information as possible regarding the efficiency, reliability, and effectiveness of their health and safety program. This information helps determine if the day to day activities at the site match its safety efforts. The goals that an employer should aim for during these audits are:

  • Consistent regularity of auditing events
  • Knowledgeable auditors
  • Advanced prep for at least a week or more
  • Thorough documentation processes for things like incident reports
  • Perceptive data analysis after the audit is complete.

Why Audits Are Needed and Those Who Perform Them

When a company is looking to have a safety audit completed, whether that be yearly or biannual, the end goal is to provide employees with the correct tools, information, and eliminate/mitigate hazards. Employee safety should be top priority in any business and a safety audit will help you with exactly that. A few specific reasons why a company may choose to perform a safety audit include:

  • State and federal legislative requirements that need to be met within the workplace
  • Wanting to instill a better safety culture for employees by engaging in safety activities such as audits
  • Safety concerns are prevalent within certain processes
  • Problems with recurring accidents
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Determining who performs an audit is the next question—employers can hire out auditors or ask their own employees to perform an audit. The trick is to make sure internal employees acting as auditors are not examining their own workspace. It is important to remember that they must also be familiar with OSHA regulations, other standards, and state law to be able to properly inspect a site.

What is a Job Hazard Analysis?

The next type of safety regulation protocol that is, and should be, a part of every facility is the job hazard analysis, some know it as JHA. More and more companies are utilizing this inspection tool because it can be applied to any procedure that aims to keep employees safe and healthy. Again, a JHA isn’t required by OSHA, but they do recognize it as “best practice” and should be done consistently every year or so. A job hazard analysis has three main components, these are:

  1. Picking out the steps of one single procedure
  2. Identifying any hazards in each step
  3. Implementing safety measures that help to avoid these risks

Jobs Needing Analysis

When looking to perform a JHA, try to pick out the processes that have more risk attached to them. These can be:

  • Jobs with a high accident rate
  • Newly established jobs
  • Jobs that have a high potential for severe injury or illnesses
  • Infrequently performed jobs

Once the job has been chosen, picked apart, and the hazards identified, then preventative controls must be put in place. A useful tool to consult during this decision making process is the Hierarchy of Hazards. This popular risk management tool helps with implementing the right controls for varying degrees of risks.

What is a Risk Assessment?

Risk assessments are the last part of this trilogy on safety inspection measures and they happen to be required by OSHA. These types of assessments are performed when a new step or process is introduced to the workflow, changes are made to existing processes and equipment, or if new hazards show up. Risk assessments are often confused with job hazard analysis, but there is one defining feature that sets them apart. JHAs involve identifying hazards in a single process while risk assessments identify a broader scope of hazards within the area.

Key Points for Performing Risk Assessments

There are six key points to remember when looking to complete a risk assessment, these are:

  1. Review existing hazards in the workplace
  2. Inspect the workplace for new safety hazards
  3. Identify health hazards
  4. Investigate past incidents
  5. Identify the hazards associated with emergency and non-routine situations
  6. Classify the nature of those hazards, identify control measures, and prioritize hazards for control measures to be put into place.

Don’t forget to document your findings! This includes the process that was used to access the risk, your evaluations, and the conclusions made by an individual or team. This is an essential part in risk assessments because it encourages the one performing the assessment to be thorough in their observations. Another good tool here to use while assessing the workplace for hazards is a risk matrix. This is a color-coded grid that measures the consequence of a hazard and the likelihood of it occurring.

Determining Which Inspection Tool to Use

It’s not a question of which to use, it’s a question of when to use it. These three events are usually a once or twice a year endeavor. To be even more prepared for them, think about using inspection checklists as often as needed to make sure your facility stays compliant with regulations. Even though only the risk assessment is required by OSHA, the others should not be left out of your normal safety plan. Safety audits, job hazard analysis, and risk assessments all provide employees with safer working conditions in each of their own respects. With that being said, good luck with your safety plan!

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