Safety Audit vs. Inspection: How To Tell The Difference

Safety audits and safety inspections both work towards identifying safety concerns and working towards creating the safest possible work environment. They typically work together to achieve this goal. 

Given their similarities, people often get the two confused. However, safety audits and inspections are different processes. It’s important to understand these differences to ensure that you are using the right process for the right thing. 

What Is A Safety Inspection?

Safety inspections are typically more specialised and thorough than safety audits. They focus on specific areas of safety in the workplace. 

For example, a safety inspection might involve checking that all the exits, stairways and walkways are unblocked and clear of trip hazards. It might also include checking whether all the required emergency response equipment is on hand. 

An inspection will generally be conducted by specialised staff who are very familiar with the work environment. They should also be knowledgeable about the relevant safety regulations and the best safety practices. 

Safety inspections can be done internally by someone in your company or by a third party, like the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).

The person conducting the safety inspection will typically use a standardised checklist and then compare their results to predetermined requirements. 

Safety inspections ultimately aim to identify and document any immediate safety concerns and problems, such as issues with equipment, tools and appliances. They check that everything is running as it should, and identify issues before they become hazards.


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What Is A Safety Audit?

Like a safety inspection, a safety audit aims to contribute to a safe working environment. However, a safety audit focuses more on the big picture and aims to identify any root causes of problems. 

It does so by considering and measuring how strong and effective a company's safety processes are. These safety processes include the company's standard safety processes, as well as other fields of operations like training programs and reporting systems. 

It usually measures the strength and effectiveness of the safety processes against some internationally-recognised standards, like those of the International Organization for Standardization (ISO)

By analysing these systems and processes, safety audits help identify potential safety risks and health concerns. This helps reveal any areas of weakness and room for improvement. 

Safety audits are usually conducted less frequently than safety inspections. They typically happen once or twice a year.


Which Should You Use And When?

To ensure a safe workplace and decrease injuries, you should conduct both safety inspections and safety audits. However, each has a time and place. 

Conduct a safety inspection whenever you want to identify any immediate safety concerns. This will ensure that the day-to-day activities of your workplace are safe. You should conduct inspections regularly. 

Use a safety audit when you want to evaluate the effectiveness of your safety processes. Do this at least once a year.


Final Thoughts

Safety audits and safety inspections are both valuable tools you can and should use to maintain safety in the workplace. Safety inspections will alert you to immediate safety hazards, while safety audits will evaluate your safety processes to help identify any root causes of these safety hazards.


If your organisation is looking for a 360° safety tool to involve all employees, service providers and external stakeholders to improve the quality of your operations, have a look at the 30-day free trial of the Falcony Platform:

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We are building the world's first operational involvement platform. Our mission is to make the process of finding, sharing, fixing and learning from issues and observations as easy as thinking about them and as rewarding as being remembered for them.‍

By doing this, we are making work more meaningful for all parties involved.

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