10 Best Practices to Improve Safety by Simplifying Audits & Inspections
Audits and inspections are too often viewed as lengthy and time-consuming chores. However, ask any safety or compliance manager from a Best-in-Class company and they will give you at least a handful of arguments for not only reprioritizing and streamlining audits and inspections, but for recognizing them as key processes to improve safety and reduce risk throughout the organization. In other words, simpler is safer and companies today know this.
To help you brainstorm on how more straightforward audit and inspection processes can put your organization on the path to safety excellence, Aberdeen’s latest report: “Simplifying the Audit and Inspection Process to Improve Safety“, is filled with interesting tips with safety-boosting effects. Here are our top 10:
1. Roll out software to automate audits and inspections
Even with standardized processes in place, managing daily operations and meeting deadlines can be a challenge if the right systems are not deployed. Using software to automate the management of the audit and inspection process will not only allow processes to become more fluid and flexible, but with the awareness and structured approach that these systems bring, you will also ensure that small but critical tasks needed to maintain safety standards in check are not overseen. This explains why best-in-class companies are 54% more likely than their peers to automate the management of their audit and inspection processes.
2. Select user-friendly systems to encourage adoption
Today’s complex and uncertain business environment can translate into situations where companies are operating under challenging conditions, including limited human resources and inexperienced personnel. Recent employees may also be less knowledgeable of company policies and best practices for safety. Combined with the fact that safety systems are often far from intuitive, creating an environment for safety excellence can be difficult.
Companies must learn how to address these roadblocks to improve the audit and inspection process and boost safety. Spending some extra time on selecting a user-friendly system early on can go a long way in helping you to make sure that safety becomes everyone’s responsibility.
3. Think of mobility as a game changing multifunctional tool
Leading companies worldwide increasingly rely on mobility as a sure-win solution to help speed up audit and inspection processes, improve safety and bring in a welcome element of user-friendliness to previously tedious and time-intensive processes. In fact, best-in-class companies are over two times more likely than their peers to use mobile devices to ease the safety process.
Going mobile by deploying applications allowing employees to conduct audits and inspections on-the-go will also positively impact productivity by streamlining processes and providing the enabling conditions for faster task completion.
4. Break down knowledge silos
Due to the countless, interdependent, and often unpredictable factors that go into avoiding personal and material harm, safety cannot be managed in a siloed manner. As a result, best-in-class companies tend to focus on making sure business processes are standardized and transparent. In addition to improving overall organizational performance, taking steps in this direction also allows for improved awareness and accountability, both key elements for improving safety and the auditing process.
5. Form cross-functional teams
Forming cross-functional teams equipped with different levels of expertise and safety-related knowledge, working towards a common goal, will help align the business and create a safety culture that is sensitive to the importance of audits and inspections.
Standardization in particular, will also support cross-functional teams conducting audits and inspections, as it will help team members address tasks with a consistent and similar approach, both valuable qualities in any unpredictable environment.
6. Store audit and inspection data in one central location
When deploying a standardized system to the benefit of cross-functional teams, collecting and storing audit and inspection data automatically and in one central location might seem like a no-brainer. This relatively simple idea translates into speed and effectiveness when pulling and sharing the data you need.
7. Leverage automated action items and task assignments
With powerful integrated software in place, you’re going to want to get the most ROI from the large volumes of data going through the system on a daily basis. Improving productivity by enabling features such as automated tasks, email notifications, alerts and standardized reporting will help users complete action items in a faster timeframe, and convert gathered information and insight into action.
8. Plan ahead to ensure audits and inspections are completed on time
Never underestimate the downstream benefits of planning ahead and setting ‘project’ milestones early on. While a good software platform will do much of the heavy lifting for you, creating a basic timeline is critical.
This will help you save time and avoid duplicated and overlapping efforts, but why is it important for safety? Research shows that improving the timeliness of audit action items brings direct improvements to the overall safety performance of a company, including a significant decrease in the number of citations. In other words, by working more fluidly, potential problems are identified and remediated faster, before any incidents or regulatory violations occur.
9. Be proactive when preparing for audits
Simplifying also means anticipating. With powerful technology and a structured system in place, achieving safety excellence isn’t just a matter of completing audits and inspections on time, they must also be thorough and conducted as part of an ongoing process instead of an ad hoc task. Make sure audits are not taking place sporadically, but on a regular basis and at each operational site.
10. Identify gaps and areas of improvement
Go one step further and drill into the data resulting from audits and inspections. While this may seem like an additional task, it will not only help your organization become safer and more resilient to risk, but it will also help ease future decision making, allowing you to focus time and resources where they are needed the most.
If you’re interested in diving deeper into these tips or you’d like to learn how to overcome common audit and inspection challenges, Aberdeen’s report on ‘Simplifying the Audit and Inspection Process to Improve Safety’ explores how and why introducing the right enablers can speed up the auditing and inspection process, reduce repeat mistakes and drive down overall risk.