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

By Kristen Hansen | Last updated: February 27, 2022

One of the main differences between a safety inspection and a safety audit is who carries it out. Inspections are performed by people who are familiar with the workplace and the work that takes place in it. Audits, on the other hand, are conducted by external parties.

Differences in the Process

Inspections and audits are also distinct processes.

A workplace safety inspection is more of a formal process documenting hazards and unsafe practices that could be unique to the organization.


It is a thorough and systematic examination of the physical conditions of a working environment and the character of the practices that take place in it. This will include an examination of all the equipment to determine whether the safeguards are operating effectively and to identify any potential hazards.

(Find out How to Prepare for a Safety Inspection)

A safety audit, on the other hand, is generally carried out with 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.

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.

Differences in Assessment

Since the goal of a safety inspection is to identify and correct shortcomings in the safety program, it is typcially carried out by someone familiar with the worksite and its particularities. Usually, this is a safety certified safety inspector or an internal safety team.

If needed, companies can rely on a third-party organization like OSHA instead.

Since audits are meant to identify safety violations and failures to comply with regulations, they are conducted by independent parties with no direct stakes in the company.

Some Similarities between Inspection and Audit

While there are key differences between the two, inspections and audits nevertheless overlap on several fronts.

Both processes:

  • Are important components of a workplace safety plan
  • Ensure that work is carried out safely and in compliance
  • Employ checklists that assess best practices, suggested precautions, and relevant standards

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