What is the difference between a safety inspection and a safety audit?

By Kristen Hansen | Last updated: May 6, 2024

Safety inspections and safety audits are both formal evaluation processes that are carried out to improve the safety of the workplace.

The main difference between them is what is being evaluated.

Safety inspections are more localized. They will take a specific area of the worksite or a piece of equipment and inspect it closely to look for any potential safety issues. For example:

  • Inspecting miter saws to ensure that the machine guards are installed and in good condition, none of the cords are frayed or worn, and that the blade is attached securely
  • Checking hazardous material containers for denting, rusting, or any other signs of damage
  • Doing a walkthrough of a factory floor to make sure there are no tripping hazards, spilled liquids, or anything else that could pose a risk to workers

Safety audits, on the other hand, are concerned with the organization’s safety management system. It involves:

  • Reviewing the safety program
  • Ensuring that the safety program is compliant with all applicable regulations
  • Verifying that the safety policies and procedures are actually being followed

While a safety inspection is primarily focused on workplace hazards, audits are more concerned with the control measures meant to keep workers safe from those hazards.

Other Differences Between Safety Audits and Safety Inspections

Who Carries Out the Evaluation

Safety inspections are done in-house. They can be carried out by the employer, a safety manager, or a supervisor.

Safety audits are often done by third parties, such as auditing firms or safety consultants. While an audit can be completed by an internal team, it is a m

ore thorough, “big picture” process that can benefit from the expertise of a dedicated auditor.

Since one goal of an audit is to identify safety violations and failures to comply with safety regulations, it can be beneficial to rely on independent auditors with no direct stakes in the company.

The Evaluation Process

Inspections and audits also follow distinct processes.

Inspections are typically focused on documenting hazard and unsafe practices. It is a thorough and systematic examination of the physical conditions of the working environment and the practices that take place in it.

A safety audit, on the other hand, is less about actually looking at the worksite and more about evaluating programs and policies. It generally has two objectives:

  • Identifying flaws in the safety program
  • Determining whether the organization is compliant with current safety regulations

This will involve an examination of the company’s safety inspection process, its training program, and the safety systems that are in place.

Similarities Between Safety Audits and Safety Inspections

While there are major differences between audits and inspections, they do serve similar purposes.

Both processes:

  • Are important aspects of a workplace safety plan
  • Ensure that work is carried out safely
  • Are part of an employer’s due diligence when it comes to creating a safe work environment
  • Employ checklists to ensure that every step is followed and nothing gets overlooked

Ready to learn more? Check out our free webinar on How to Build a Hand Safety Program!

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