What is your reaction when you hear that your electrical department at your plant is going to be audited?
If your stomach immediately churns or the tension in your neck precipitates a headache, you’re not alone. I’m not going to pretend that an audit is not a stressful time for employees and supervisors. Following are some positive aspects and practical advice we can take to hopefully prevent a migraine.
Why is an Audit So Important?
Bring out the positive and negative: Goals for your workplace might include running the facility efficiently and profitably, and in a way that will keep all employees safe. A thorough electrical audit will point out any weaknesses in your electrical program and will provide suggestions on how to correct those problems. The auditor will also list the areas that are being managed well and simply need to be maintained.
Create a safer work environment: Audits are a critical and an effective part of a company’s Electrical Safety Program. Research has shown that audits greatly help to improve safe behavior, especially when coupled with training. When expected and trained to work safely, and then audited to check work behaviors, employees are more likely to develop safe work habits.
Keep your company on track: Consistently scheduled audits will help you identify whether training skills are being used. Annual audits seem to work well for many companies. A recommended periodicity is two years of internal audits, with an outside audit every third year. This outside audit can be performed by another department within your company, or by an outside auditing firm like e-Hazard.
What Does an Audit Involve?
Your time: Time that could be spent making money may have to be spent finding and correcting issues. Keep in mind that this is time well invested. Preventing an incident should be considered more desirable than trying to “cure” an incident.
Critical review: The following questions and others like these will need to be met head-on:
- What dangerous work practices or policies need to be immediately changed?
- Are there safety procedures that employees are ignorant of, or perhaps aware of but choosing not to adhere to?
- Are your plant’s one-line drawings of the electrical equipment up-to-date? Are those drawings easily accessible?
- Are employee records current with training requirements?
Honest (and sometimes difficult) conversations: Talking with others face-to-face is necessary to reach a solution on a safety issue. Correcting issues can cost money, whether in new equipment or man hours, so you may have to interface with the people who make those financial decisions. Conversations may also need to take place with contractors; do you know your responsibilities toward them and their responsibilities toward you? Are those duties being communicated to the right people?
Benefits of a 3rd Party Audit
Objective viewpoint: Before your scheduled internal audit takes place, consider hiring a third-party auditing company to look over your equipment, Electrical Safety Procedure, and employee training records. An objective set of eyes can better point out discrepancies or hold you accountable to the law. Another expert’s opinion can also help you understand the reasoning behind the rules.
Staying current with safety standards: If you choose an outside company, do your best to choose one that can audit your facility using the most up-to-date safety standards. Be aware of when the NFPA 70E® is updated (2021 is the next cycle change).
Get It Done!
Don’t put off what you know needs to be done. After the audit, if you find yourself overwhelmed by the number or scope of the issues, divide each issue into manageable segments, and tackle each segment step by step. Start with the easiest task first; that way you’ll reach success sooner and will be motivated to progress to the next assignment. However, if a dangerous issue looms, by all means take care of that first.
Put trustworthy people to work with you. Who are your best team players at your workplace? Consider their individual strengths, and give each one a task that he or she will be successful at. One by one the tasks will get done, issues will be resolved, and your own work load won’t bog you down.
If you have hired a third-party auditor, follow his or her recommendations. Even if some of those recommendations are long-term tasks, keep them on a front burner. Don’t put off completing that task and risk a bigger issue occurring in the future.
“…nothing is accomplished by standing still.”¹
Audits are not fun. But they do not have to be the “end of the world” either. Decide once and for all to get your company on the right track if you haven’t already, and get the audit done.
¹ Zig Ziglar. (n.d.). AZQuotes.com. Retrieved April 03, 2017, from AZQuotes.com Web site: http://www.azquotes.com/quote/781414