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HSE Inspections, Surveys & Audits

Updated: Feb 13, 2022

February 11, 2019 — The terms inspection, survey, and audits are routinely used in the safety practice. While these terms are similar, they have different intended meanings. “So what?” you may be thinking now.


Inspections are planned events at various intervals, performed using a checklist for specific operations, conditions, equipment, or job tasks. Inspections are often prescribed by a regulation.  For example, a daily forklift inspection checklist will list specific inspection points which are grouped by a particular theme (e.g. engine on checks, and engine off checks), as illustrated in OSHA’s daily powered industrial inspection checklist guidelines. In this use case, employees, supervisors, managers and HSE personnel are performing inspections to check or test against established standards, to view closely and examine officially.


Surveys on the other hand tend to be less formal than inspections, and on-going.  A survey examines conditions, behaviors, situations and generally may result in the collection of data for the analysis of some aspect of a group or area.  Surveys should include employees and management encouragement in hazard identification. Examples may include behavior-based safety observations, hazard reporting, and stop work authority. HSE personnel often conducts a walk-through survey of job sites and performs a “look-see” for any hazardous conditions or employee actions which may be at risk.  Upon identification of a hazard condition or behavior, the situation may be corrected on the spot, or lead to corrective actions being assigned to mitigate the issue.  The observation data points from on-going surveys and corrective actions taken are evidence of an on-going pro-active effort to improve safety performance.

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Audits are performed less frequently than inspections and surveys.  Audits are systematic, independent and documented process for obtaining evidence and evaluating it objectively to determine the extent to which the audit criteria are fulfilled. Audits are intended to assess performance and overall compliance with external or internal regulations, policies or other safety management system standards. An audit of a company inspection program would help to assess compliance with company inspection policies. The results of an audit should be used by a company to initiate plans for improvement.

Management System – Plan-Do-Check-Act Cycle

Within a management system, the inspection and survey process would be considered the “DO” and the Audit process would be the “CHECK”.  Companies that are seeking better outcomes in safety are looking into HSE technology solutions which can automate the proactive activities such as hazard reporting (surveys), inspections, and audits.  Studies suggest HSE technology solutions can help companies get the most out of inspection, survey, and audit data to make decisions “ACT” on improvement plans “PLAN”.

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We appreciate your feedback on this blog and invite you to check out Safework Solutions, LLC, provider of a robust web-based safety management system called Safework Suite.  Our software is designed to help clients achieve world class performance in their occupational safety and health management system.

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