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Though sometimes used interchangeably, safety audits and inspections aren’t the same. A Safety Inspection is intended to find hazards, risks, and unsafe practices within the facility and may result in citations or fines, while a Safety Audit pinpoints compliance issues within implemented safety procedures using voluntary self-checks. These processes work together to find weak areas in safety procedures and requirements and target areas for improvement. This guide examines the differences between an inspection and an audit and provides tips for improving compliance with floor marking tape, safety programs, and regulations.

Why Are Safety Audits Important?

Audits are voluntary self-checks of a facility’s health and safety processes. Safety audits do not replace OSHA inspections, but they can help improve compliance sitewide, which can help reduce violations and fines when an inspection happens.

Common reasons for safety audits include checking compliance with local and federal regulations, as a response to an accident or injury, or in an effort to improve and promote a company-wide safety culture.

A Safety Audit:

  • Collects information about compliance with existing safety measures
  • Provides opportunities to improve safety procedures before accidents, injuries, or fines
  • Targets problems early in order to re-align safety processes as required
  • Looks at progress toward and informs continuous improvement processes to meet safety goals

The frequency of safety audits depends on the facility. Self-audits may be completed by an independent, third-party auditor, or supervisors, management, or a safety committee. Daily or weekly employee audit checklists are useful tools for improving overall compliance prior to a regular inspection.

Self-audits are not required, but they are an important step in ensuring on-site safety practices are followed, floor markings and signage remain in good repair, and equipment is properly maintained. A safety self-audit provides an opportunity to fix dangerous situations and non-compliance before accidents happen and helps prevent failing marks during required inspections—which can result in fines.

How Is a Safety Inspection Different from an Audit? 

While similar—audits and inspections both look at safety practices and how they line up with regulations—a safety inspection has a different focus than an audit. During a safety inspection, a designated professional conducts a walkaround to look for unsafe conditions, equipment, or procedures, then records and shares any findings with the appropriate facility contact.

A Safety Inspection:

  • Looks for unsafe practices or safety regulation violations
  • Evaluates exposure to risks, including chemical and material, slip, trip, and fall hazards, or exit route blockage
  • Assesses machinery, vehicles, and equipment to ensure there is no damage or necessary repairs
  • Examines incident reports to inform the evaluation of health and safety risks

An inspection generally examines hazards and risks, while an audit looks at the processes to determine if they’re effective. The two work together to improve safety, but self-audits are not always examined by OSHA unless as necessary as part of a review to determine progress toward correcting hazards found during an inspection.

Who Conducts Safety Inspections?

Safety inspections may be conducted by different agencies depending on the type of inspection—and inspectors may arrive with or without warning. For example, an OSHA inspector may arrive without notice to inspect your facility, either for a regular inspection or in response to a violation complaint. While you may schedule an inspection with a third-party consulting company to help pinpoint concerns, they do not replace an OSHA inspection.

Annual fire inspections are conducted by the fire department and are generally by appointment—however, a surprise fire inspection or unscheduled safety check may occur in response to a complaint or incident report.

Safety equipment inspections, such as fire extinguishers, emergency lighting, and sprinkler assessments, are completed monthly. Other facility inspections may be on a bi-weekly, every six months, or annual inspection cycle.

Visual Cues Improve On-Site Health and Safety

To improve your inspection performance, make health and safety a priority before the inspection. Implement policies that go beyond the bare minimum, ensure proper training, provide clear visual cues to communicate requirements and hazards, and promote a safety culture to get higher levels of participation. Here are some ways to make compliance easier:

  • Clearly mark egress, exits, fire safety equipment, and first aid kits. Pre-cut floor tape marking kits make it easy to designate areas that must be kept uncluttered and unblocked. Clean the floor, peel and stick the pre-cut pieces, and tamp for long-lasting floor markings that remind employees to keep these crucial spaces clear.
  • Implement a site-wide color-coordinated visual cue strategy. Visual cues help employees act more quickly in response to hazards, and creating sitewide color standards makes it easier to determine what taped areas mean to communicate. Pair pre-determined colors with text for a safer, more efficient industrial workplace.
  • Prevent pedestrian accidents by separating forklift and foot traffic. Designate foot- or forklift-only zones with floor market tape or physical barriers to clearly mark the intended traffic type. Keeping pedestrians out of traveled areas helps reduce accidents.
  • Provide safety reminders with graphics and text. To comply with regulations that reduce safety incidents, ensure pinch points, slip, trip, and fall hazards, electrical dangers, and other physical risks are clearly marked. Using signs with custom text and graphics rather than color alone reduces confusion and improves reaction time, which creates a safer environment.
  • Improve workflow success with visual communication. When workflows change often or include many steps, employees may have difficulty remembering the processes or may decide to take unsafe shortcuts. Visual cues reinforce the importance of following the proper procedures and help employees make the best choices.

Visual cues can be used to improve workplace safety, which helps prevent accidents or injuries and improves overall audit or inspection performance. When you improve your visual communication strategy, you’ll see improvement in compliance. For more tips on how to improve workplace safety using floor marking tape and other visual cues, explore our Resource Center.