Jun 23, 2023

Conducting a Compliance Audit: A Step-by-Step Guide

Key Takeaways:

Conducting routine safety audits is essential for maintaining a safe and compliant work environment.

Define clear objectives for the audit based on industry, organization size, the nature of operations and contractor type.

Assemble a competent and unbiased audit team with expertise in EHS management and risk assessment.

Develop a well-structured audit plan, including timelines, procedures, and resource allocation.

Utilize technology to enhance efficiency and data collection during the audit process.

Collect evidence through document review, site inspections, interviews, and incident report analysis.

Analyze findings to identify trends, patterns, and potential safety issues.

Classify findings based on severity and impact on worker safety.

Develop actionable recommendations aligned with regulations, best practices, and organizational goals.

Prioritize recommendations based on the severity of safety hazards and potential risks.

Prepare a comprehensive audit report with a concise executive summary, analysis, and supporting evidence.

Collaborate with stakeholders to implement recommendations and monitor progress.

Conduct regular audits, promote collaboration, and continuously improve to maintain a culture of safety.


Maintaining a safe and compliant work environment is both a social and legal responsibility. Not to mention, it is paramount to your organization’s longevity and success. Conducting a safety audit is a proactive approach used to identify potential hazards, ensure regulatory compliance, and protect the well-being of workers. In this blog post, we will provide a step-by-step guide on how to conduct an effective EHS and compliance audit. By following these instructions, organizations can mitigate risks, improve safety protocols, and foster a culture of safety within their operations.

Define Audit Objectives

Begin by clearly defining the objectives of your audit and what you want to take away from it. This’ll be highly dependent on the nature of your industry, the size of your organization, and the type of contractors you hire. Identify the specific regulations, standards, and industry best practices that apply to your organization and industry. Assess critical areas such as hazard identification, risk assessment, personal protective equipment (PPE) usage, emergency response procedures, and contractor management. Set specific goals for the audit, such as identifying safety gaps, evaluating the effectiveness of safety controls, or recommending improvements to existing safety programs.

Assemble an Audit Team

Forming a strong team is crucial for a successful safety and compliance audit. Select individuals with expertise in EHS management, occupational health and safety, contractor management, and risk assessment. Ensure team members are independent and unbiased, without conflicts of interest. Define their roles and responsibilities clearly to promote efficient collaboration throughout the audit process. Additionally, provide adequate training to the audit team members on EHS regulations, safety standards, and auditing techniques. Additionally, you should implement a clear chain of communication between your audit members to ensure accuracy, transparency and efficiency in their processes.

Develop an Audit Plan

Create a well-structured audit plan to ensure a systematic and comprehensive examination of your EHS and contractor safety practices and policies. The plan should include the audit timeline, audit procedures, and allocation of resources. Identify the methods to be used, such as document review, site inspections, interviews with workers and contractors, and analysis of incident reports. Determine the frequency and depth of testing based on risk assessments and the significance of safety areas. Utilize technology, such as a contractor solution or inspection software, to enhance efficiency and data collection during the audit process.

Conduct Fieldwork

During the fieldwork phase, the audit team collects evidence to evaluate EHS and contractor safety controls and practices. Review safety policies, procedures, permits, training records, and incident reports. Inspect worksites to assess any present or potential hazards, risk controls, signage, and the use of appropriate PPE. Conduct interviews with workers, supervisors, and contractors to understand their roles and responsibilities in ensuring safety. Document observations and findings accurately, including any instances of non-compliance, safety hazards, or best practices not being fulfilled.

Analyze Findings

Analyze the collected evidence to identify trends, patterns, and potential safety issues. Compare observed practices against relevant regulations, industry standards in comparison to other organizations, and internal safety policies. Classify findings based on their severity and potential impact on worker safety. Document your findings comprehensively, including root causes and potential consequences of non-compliance or unsafe practices. Identify areas of strength and weakness within your safety framework to prepare an action plan that addresses those points.

Develop Recommendations

Based on the analysis of your audit’s findings, develop actionable recommendations to address identified safety gaps. Provide practical solutions that align with EHS regulations, internal protocols, and organizational goals. Prioritize recommendations based on the severity of safety hazards and potential risks involved. Consider both short-term and long-term solutions aimed at bridging the safety gaps, focusing on preventing future incidents and improving safety culture. Collaborate with relevant stakeholders, such as EHS managers, supervisors, and contractors, to ensure the feasibility and effectiveness of the proposed recommendations.

Prepare Audit Report

Compile the audit findings and recommendations into a comprehensive audit report. Ensure the report is concise, clear, and accessible to all relevant stakeholders. Include an executive summary highlighting key findings and recommendations. Provide a detailed analysis of non-compliance issues, safety hazards, and identified strengths and weaknesses. Include supporting evidence, photographs, or data gathered during the audit process. Clearly communicate the recommended actions and their expected impact on EHS and contractor safety. Work with your organization to implement the recommendations and monitor progress to ensure continuous improvement.

Closing Remarks

Conducting an EHS and compliance audit is crucial for organizations to mitigate risks, ensure compliance, and promote a safe work environment. By following this step-by-step guide, organizations can proactively identify safety hazards, improve safety protocols, and protect the well-being of workers and contractors. Regular audits, effective collaboration, and continuous improvement efforts are key to maintaining a culture of safety and achieving operational excellence in the fields of EHS and contractor safety. Not to mention, an improvement in safety will almost certainly funnel down into other aspects of the business, making your organization successful on all fronts.

About the Author

Addison Moore
Director of Marketing at Contractor Compliance

Addison has spent the last four years learning from and participating in the Health & Safety community. He has travelled to numerous EHS conferences, trade shows and events with the intention of helping organizations with their contractor management programs. Addison is also responsible for curating the collection of white papers, case studies and eBooks that provide real world insights into the workforce safety space.

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