In the November 2012 issue of EHS Today, I introduced the concept of the safety sweep audit as a supplemental tool for the detailed safety inspection mechanism commonly used in industry.  The article explained the basic contents of sweep audits, listed the basic elements of a process loop to administer sweep audits and offered simple examples of how all may be integrated. This article furthers the discussion while focusing on sweep audit integration and how your audit data may be leveraged to positively impact important facets of your safety administration process.

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At Milliken & Co., we take these four steps to optimize the return on our sweep audit investment:

1.  Trend the Data

Your template information (scores and discrepancies by audit element) should be entered into simple spreadsheets at the final destination to create trend analyses for your audit process. Trend charts of overall scores posted in each of your audited work zones become compelling metrics to review during shift meetings or toolbox talks. Keep it simple; manually posted scores on area run charts serve to increase involvement and conserve your resources. Ensure your data clearly signifies the level of safety performance for the work group over the course of time.  This is the message to deliver, and this is the metric that sustains expectations.

Trending of discrepancies is of prime importance to your safety process. Significant, revealing gaps appear in mere weeks of capturing each audit element from all audit work zones. Commonly, certain audit items will show repetitive failures over time. Zone-by-zone tracking of items that repeatedly fail acts as a predictor of the potential means for injury or potential means of other losses, and it provides a visual indicator to managers and safety professionals of where corrective actions would prevent such losses.  You can target responses (training, supplemental supplies, procedural change, capital expenditures, etc.) to prioritize the variety of needs for each of your work zones.  Through trending, your site will become more proactive and less reactive in its safety process administration.

2.  Track  the Corrective Actions to Completion

As calls for corrective action (work orders, replacement item procurement, etc.) emerge within the sweep audit review loop, it's important to maintain visibility of these corrective needs until they are completed. Create and maintain a tracking sheet of open-versus-closed needs so you satisfy this objective. Best captured at the point of final destination, this method allows you to share this data at various levels. As a final thought, closure of needed corrective actions positively impacts your site in two ways: It helps you reduce the potential for injury or other losses and is a trust-building activity for employees who become first-hand witnesses to improvements taking place. Tracking sheets with routine updates are effective tools that close loops on corrective needs before they escalate into losses.