A wise man once said, “You better check yourself before you wreck yourself.”
Zach Galifianakis (and originally, Ice Cube) could have very well been talking about safety audits and inspections. The only way to avoid wrecking yourself with workforce incidents and losses is to regularly check yourself by examining your facilities, equipment, people, and processes.
But despite this clear imperative, many organizations fail to conduct safety audits and inspections as frequently and thoroughly as they should.
There are a myriad of reasons why audits and inspections go underutilized and undervalued.
Too often, it’s a matter of priorities— safety audits and inspections don’t seem as urgent or important as other business matters and environment, health, and safety concerns. Perhaps leadership isn’t totally on board with the organization’s safety program, leaving workers saddled with outdated technology and lackluster safety procedures. Combined with inadequate training, these elements can create hazardous working conditions, leading to significant financial and human costs.
Sometimes, safety audits and inspections don’t happen because the workforce is overwhelmed or under-supported. Team members feel unprepared for the responsibility of audits and inspections. Maybe they don’t know what issues and risks to look out for, or how to address those items.
In many cases, organizations that fall short on safety audits and inspections don’t realize they’re doing anything wrong. They assume they’re managing their risks as effectively as possible. In reality, they could be ignoring major EHS and compliance issues because those issues appear too minor or inexorable, or because they simply don’t want to see them. In other words, they’ve convinced themselves that they’re doing the best they can; that some accidents, and injuries in the workplace are just unavoidable.
Considering the costs that follow—workers’ compensation claims, potential fines from an alphabet soup of regulators like OSHA, the EPA, the DOT, or NFPA. Heap on legal fees, equipment damage, lowered productivity, reputational damage—a single incident can jeopardize your business.
The Function of Effective Safety Audits and Inspections at Your Organization
If your organization is experiencing any number of accidents or illnesses above zero, something needs to change. The well-being of your workers, customers, and stakeholders depends on it.
So, what exactly needs to change? That’s where safety audits and inspections come in.
A safety audit is a comprehensive assessment of your EHS program. It encompasses everything from the condition of machines and personal protective equipment to the ways in which safety is documented, communicated, and practiced throughout the organization. Audits can be performed by independent third party experts, such as safety consultants, rather than members of your workforce.
A safety inspection is smaller in scope. Inspections are typically examinations of specific physical controls. Examples of those controls include emergency equipment like fire extinguishers and eyewash stations—all of which need to be inspected on at least a monthly basis. Meanwhile, some items, such as forklifts, need to be inspected daily.
(For more about the distinctions between safety audits and inspections, read our explainer.)
The Value of Safety Audits and Inspections
If safety audits and inspections sound like a lot of work, that’s because they can be. The process typically involves one or more safety professionals combing through facilities and systems, taking note of any and every possible risk. Expect checklists, reports, safety committee meetings, and recommendations for corrective and preventive actions in the event any problems are discovered. The total hours and expenses are not insignificant.
However, the costs of not conducting proper safety audits and inspections are far greater. Or, to put a more positive spin on it, audits and inspections deliver a clear return on investment. We’ve conducted several studies that prove it.
According to our research, thorough and ongoing safety audits and inspections tend to reduce organization’s experience modifiers. An experience modifier, often referred to as an “ex-mod,” determines a company’s workers’ comp insurance rate. The higher the ex-mod, the more the company pays for coverage.
Our research showed that the typical KPA client earns and maintains lower-than-average ex-mods—less than 0.9, compared to the base rating of 1.0. Given the variance in ex-mods from state to state, this can add up to serious savings.
In California, for example, the average workers’ comp premium is $172,660. By year 6 of using KPA, our clients have an average ex-mod of 88.32, meaning they can expect an annual premium of $152,493—nearly a $20,000 difference. And factoring in time and indirect savings (using a conservative 1.1 multiplier from OSHA’s “$afety Pays” tool), the typical California KPA client should experience savings of more than twice that.
KPA clients can also see ROI in terms of regulatory enforcement. During visits from regulators like OSHA, the EPA, and state occupational safety agencies, regulators typically conduct informal conferences in which they list citations they’ve identified and the fine amount. Business leaders can meet with regulators and theoretically reduce these penalties, but most people who aren’t compliance experts are unprepared to have this conversation. KPA’s consultants are well-equipped to engage in the debate and defend our clients—and we’ve helped numerous organizations secure significant reductions in penalties.
We’ve also worked with our clients to optimize their responses to complaints, effectively reducing or avoiding fines proactively.
Audits and inspections are essential to all of this, as they provide real, detailed information about an organization’s safety and compliance efforts. Whether used to keep people safe, defend against regulatory action, or improve processes, the results of audits and inspections are incontrovertible sources of truth that show an employer’s good faith effort to protect their employees.
How We Do Safety Audits and Inspections at KPA
At KPA, we help with both safety audits and inspections. Our safety and compliance consultants work alongside on-site managers to conduct safety audits that pinpoint existing and potential safety issues. These establish the framework for more frequent, targeted inspections, which we can assist with as needed.
KPA’s audits and inspections serve to not only protect workers but minimize legal and regulatory risks. Many of the organizations we work with take advantage of our OSHA safety audit services, which ensure compliance with federal and state regulations. As mentioned above, our team can go to bat for clients in regulatory conferences, reducing or eliminating citations and fines.
We also help conduct accident investigations, evaluating on-site injuries, performing root cause analyses that reveal the reasons why accidents occur, and determining how to prevent repeats in the future.
Lots of clients take advantage of KPA’s army of consultants to help record their chemical inventory or help produce fire evacuation maps.
These services are available on-site and virtually, and supported by Vera Suite, our all-in-one EHS software platform, along with KPA’s award-winning library of training content.
KPA Consultants + Vera Suite = Flexible, Efficient Safety Audits and Inspections
As critical as EHS Consultants can be, they can’t walk the floor with you every day. Most likely, you can’t walk the floor every day! Which is where software comes in handy. Using Vera Suite’s audit and inspection functionality, you can ensure your organization systematically follows the best practices you’ve developed in partnership with your consultant.
When your organization uses Vera Suite, you can create new inspection templates or configure pre-packaged templates provided by KPA. This flexible approach allows you to create safety inspections tailored to specific areas of risk within your facilities. Examples include emergency response, hazardous materials, and employee health assessments—essentially, you can create any inspection you desire. With this capability, you’ll save time, reduce costs, and improve your safety management processes.
See how easy it is to manage safety audits and inspections with the help of KPA and Vera Suite. Ask us for a personalized demo.