Computer and software products allow today’s safety auditors to break away from the old pen-and-paper auditing routine to a more accurate, efficient and flexible process. Using software for safety audits provides many advantages over traditional audit methods. Some advantages, such as providing pre-written checklists, are obvious. Other advantages may not be so obvious.

Below are a few easily overlooked ways that software can be used to assist a safety auditor:

  • Standardization — Different departments or locations can use the same audit software and, thus, get similar, or standardized, results. Plus, through software, auditors are apt to be guided to use similar audit methods.

  • Objectivity — Unless you develop your own software, the audit guidelines and questions from software you purchase will probably be objective, which could be an advantage over audit materials developed by the facility being audited. Conversely, commercial software may not be specific to your workplace. Customizable software may be your solution.

    Also, it’s hard not to focus an audit on areas where you know potential problems exist. Obviously, you need to focus on these areas, but you also need to cover all areas, regardless of whether you think there’s a problem or not. Software won’t know the difference. It will know what items to audit for general-industry purposes and will focus equally on all parts of a facility, unless you tell it otherwise.

  • Updatable — Many commercial software applications offer update services to keep you current with regulatory changes as well as provide new content and services. This is a huge advantage over trying to track the regulations yourself and then match up changes and regulatory citations to your paper copies.

    Also, using updatable software probably means you’re getting the latest best practices, and new and fresh audit content.

  • Searchable — Try finding an audit question on width of aisles in a huge stack of paper checklists — good luck! Try the same thing with a software search. It takes less time than removing the cap from your pen.

  • Portable — Many software packages offer users the capability of downloading audits to handheld devices such as Palm Pilots, pocket PCs and PDAs (personal digital assistant) as well as laptops. This allows auditors to take their software with them to the audit location. On the handheld they can have the full audit checklist(s), space for comments on each question, a place to assign responsibility for each area, and regulatory information, if applicable, for each audit question.

    While just using software in your office can enhance safety auditing, when you combine the software with the portability of these devices you will then realize major advantages. Imagine, having regulatory and safety and health references out on the shop floor with you, without packing a single book, manual, or stack of paper.

  • Accurate — How many times have you scribbled something on a piece of paper while performing an audit, only to lose it or not be able to read it when you get back to your office? With software, you don’t have to worry about that, assuming you are using a personal digital assistant, laptop, pocket PC, etc. Just upload all that information to the computer desktop and you won’t have to transcribe or re-key any information.

  • Regulator-friendly — An auditor can quickly determine what regulations or issues apply to a facility through software search functions or needs-assessments.

  • Secure — With software, you don’t have a stack of paper checklists lying around for the world — or OSHA inspectors — to see. The audit trails are completely under your control. Share all or portions, only as you see fit.

  • Corrective action — Have you ever seen a corrective action set, then filed away and not followed-up on until the next audit? It’s “out-of-sight, out-of-mind.” With software, however, you can set corrective action reminders so they “alert” you and remind you to follow-up.

  • Reference — When you’re preparing for an audit, many reference materials are often needed. This can include full-text regulations, best practices, OSHA directives, industry consensus standards, etc. Instead of going to ump-teen different sources for this material, you could go to one software source.

    Other benefits

    Not only can you pack an enormous amount of information with a PDA, you can also input an enormous amount of information. And the benefit to this? No mistakes due to data entry from paper to PC!

    Many users need the ability to include multiple handheld functionality. Some software programs allow a single desktop PC to be used as the home-base for multiple auditors. Once all the audits are completed, they can be uploaded from each handheld and saved on one central PC. This provides a safety manager the opportunity to manage all locations and departments right from his/her desktop.