The Value of Safety Audits
Safety audits have long been a great tool for identifying hazards in the workplace. By being proactive in the auditing process, hazardous conditions and unsafe procedures can be identified and corrected, thereby eliminating or reducing the possibility of injury or property damage. This can save companies a substantial amount of money that would have been paid out in medical expenditures, workers’ compensation, disability and many other costs associated with occupational injuries and illnesses.
In a recent article on the federal OSHA website “OSHA Saves Lives and Jobs,” a new study, conducted by professors at the University of California and Harvard Business School, shows that OSHA inspections have saved billions of dollars for employers through reduced workers’ compensation costs. The study, entitled “Randomized Government Safety Inspections Reduce Worker Injuries with no Detectable Job Loss,” published in Science, one of the world’s top scientific journals, found that workplace injury claims dropped 9.4% at randomly chosen businesses in the four years following an inspection by the California OSHA program, compared with employers not inspected. Those same employers also saved an average of 26% on workers’ compensation costs, when compared with similar firms that were not inspected. This means that the average employer saved $355,000 (in 2011 dollars) as a result of an OSHA inspection. The effects were seen among small and large employers.
Some important conclusions from this study showed that according to the researchers, “employees almost surely gain from Cal/OSHA inspections,” and there was “no evidence that inspections lead to worse outcomes for employees or employers” in terms of employment or company survival. “The benefits of a randomized safety inspection appear to be substantial. These results do not support the hypothesis that OSHA regulations and inspections on average have little value in improving health and safety.”
Safety audits should be a proactive process performed on a periodic basis based on the level of hazards present and number of OSHA safety and health standards to which a company must comply. Having an external or outside safety consultant conduct this audit provides a different perspective and the expertise necessary to identify non-compliance issues for a variety of occupational safety standards. The current Minnesota Occupational Safety and Health Strategic Plan has as their first goal to reduce occupational hazards through compliance inspections. Listed below are some of the current industry types receiving inspection emphasis:
- Food manufacturing
- Wood product manufacturing
- Primary metal manufacturing
- Furniture and related product manufacturing
- Transportation equipment manufacturing
- Building material and garden equipment & supplies dealers
Whether receiving an audit from MNOSHA or conducting internal audits yourself, safety inspections have been proven to save lives and money. Being proactive and scheduling frequent safety and health audits can reduce the possibility of receiving citations and fines from MNOSHA compliance officers. A reactive approach results in mandatory compliance with the citations and in addition paying penalties for non-compliance. It makes good business sense to make that investment up front with a safety inspection program initiative to provide a safe, healthy and more profitable work environment. Trusight’s Safety Services can provide assistance in both conducting on-site audits and compliance assistance with MNOSHA citation abatement and contestation.
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