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An Outside Safety Audit? Why, what’s in it for us?

Posted 11 years 198 days ago ago by Admin

Safety Audit

An Outside Safety Audit? Why, what’s in it for us?

By Roger M. Baker

Many helicopter operators ask themselves these questions, and many others, when the conversation with a peer or competitor turns to the subject of an outside audit. Questions are a natural reaction, and each organization needs answers before they embark on an outside safety audit.

First, a simple definition.  The safety audit is: (1) a  structured process of collecting independent information on the efficiency, effectiveness and reliability of all the policies, processes, and procedures utilized by the company and (2) drawing up plans for corrective action if new information and safety opportunities are found.

There are a number of really good reasons for bringing in outside eyes to look over your organization.  The very first of those reasons is “You don’t know what you don’t know”.  It is so true.  We live in our own little cocoons, many times with minimal contact with the world of aviation around us.  We do a few small things like read the trade press, talk to others in the FBO lounge, and keep up with the manufacturer’s website.  But do we really know what the latest “best practices” are in the industry?  In my experience of conducting safety audits with some really excellent helicopter companies, I find it startling what best practices they have never considered or implemented.

When we talk about these practices, they seem surprised that they never thought of some of the ways to enhance safety. Why would they, unless their company had an experience that caused them to implement one of these best practices from elsewhere. You become an insular company.  A qualified outsider can look at situations and not be biased or personally involved. The safety audit allows your organization to step back and get the 10,000 foot strategic bird’s eye view.  As the saying goes, sometimes you are so deep in the forest you cannot see the trees.  As professionals, we believe we get the appropriate training and keep current.  Still, without another set of eyes, you don’t know what you don’t know!

Another reason for an outside audit is to confirm that the policies, processes, and procedures used in your company are appropriate, complete --- and most importantly --- effective in reducing risk. In addition, the outside auditor can provide an independent verification that employees are complying with all policies, procedures and processes.  Using an outsider for this review allows you to focus on continuous improvement and positive change management.  Another point of view gives a data point to start the discussion of a particular issue or concern.  This discussion can lead to the implementation of a safety mitigation that will work best in your culture.  The outside auditor can follow up on your own internal audit process and can add credibility and confirmation that you are doing things right.

Is your company in compliance with all of the regulatory requirements from the FAA, EPA, and OSHA?  An independent viewpoint is important in order to ensure a truly comprehensive assessment.  Your auditor should benchmark your department against current best practice and assist you in developing a structured path for continuous improvement.  Workplace safety auditing doesn’t just ensure compliance with various regulations, it ensures employees are kept safe, injury-free, and productive.  Or to put it another way, the goal of safety audits is to ensure that no one gets hurt and that there’s no bent metal.

Your company desires to be the best that you can be within your industry. Being professional means stretching your organization to continuously improve.  You must determine if the safety policies of YOUR company are being properly implemented.  An auditor will help you identify areas where policy effectiveness needs improvement. An outside audit holds up a mirror to your company so that you can see where to add safety improvements to your daily operations.  A good safety audit is not only a legal, ethical, and financial obligation of your company, but it is also a crucial process to ensure the most positive safety record that is practical.

A comprehensive outside safety audit is a win-win decision.  You will get a good SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats) analysis that will provide you with a positive path forward in a safe, efficient and effective manner.  My experience has been that companies always feel they received abundant value for their investment.

Roger Baker is President of Safety Focus Group LLC and can be reached at [email protected].