Personnel Audits: Maintaining a Culture of Safety


National Field Services takes great pride in being an industry leader when it comes to safety in the workplace. Personnel audits, also known as safety audits, play a significant role in their efforts. We recently sat down with Tyler DeBey, Safety Manager for National Field Services to discuss personnel audits and safety.

What are some of the “big picture” goals of a personnel audit?

It’s very important that our workers are safe in the field because of the nature of our industry and what we do on a day-to-day basis. Our goal is to evaluate our skill sets out in the field and that everyone is very knowledgeable about the tasks they have been assigned to do. In the overall scheme of doing safety audits, it’s not necessarily just the safety aspect. We want our guys to work safe, but it (the audit) is also a form of communication. It lets our guys in the field know that we (management) want to make sure they’re safe, and we want to provide a safe way of doing things. If workers don’t feel comfortable doing their job in the field, it’s very hard for them to get motivated to do their job and do it well.

Who conducts the audits?

There’s multiple involvement from different people. On the administration side, there is the auditor. We tend to limit that role to our engineers or our skilled technicians. We try to rotate the role of auditor once a month. We also try to make sure the auditor is a third-party person—and by third party, I mean someone who is not scheduled to be on that particular job on that day. Someone who’s not on the project being audited can give their full attention to the audit, so the audit will be more successful.

What are some of the challenges of conducting audits in the field as opposed to in a shop?

Obviously, being in the shop makes it much easier because the personnel are here; it’s just a matter of taking an hour out of the auditor’s day to go out on the floor and do their inspection. Now, in the field, our jobs can be local—in the DFW Metroplex—or they could be outside the Metroplex and even outside the state in some cases. So it becomes very challenging to organize things so the auditor can be on-site at a certain job on a certain day with a certain crew. We tend to shoot for local jobs that are in the DFW area because those are a bit more attainable, rather than someone spending most of their time driving to a site to spend only an hour there and then having to drive all the way back.

What types of things do you look for when conducting an audit?

We want to ensure employees are in compliance with our safety policies for electrical work, heat stress, or any of the daily hazards we identify on site. There are multiple exposures we have on-site; electrical is the main one. But during summer in Texas, it’s very hot. We have certain heat-stress policies—we like to make sure our personnel are drinking plenty of water. If they’re not feeling well, they need to tell somebody. Another example would be our cleaning chemicals.

Can you share some of the specific things an auditor evaluates?

In general, the auditor looks at tasks being performed that are specific to the work being done. Were they identified, and were there hazards identified with each of those tasks? Was personal protective equipment (PPE) being worn? Did everybody sign off that they were aware of the tasks they were doing? Was everyone compliant with safe-work practices? Was an Emergency Action Plan established? Were quality control procedures followed? Was there any special training required prior to doing the task? These are very specific things we look at to help evaluate where we are strong, both in the field as well as in the shop.

Once an audit is complete, what happens next?

We have a fixed list of questions we go through on-site. These are pretty much a yes/no format. If there are any outstanding compliance issues, those are briefly described. There aren’t a lot of issues that come up. If there are any, it usually has to do with PPE. This information is reviewed with the entire crew on-site. Everyone signs off that they understand what was done wrong, what wasn’t done to the level it should have been, and areas where everyone met the standards. Once the review is complete and we bring everything back here to the office, we scan it in and file it with our other audits. We save them for future reference, including OSHA audits.

Do these safety audits come into play with the companies’ involvement in the OSHA Challenge?

Yes, they do. The great thing about the OSHA Challenge is that it helps small companies that don’t have a full-time safety person do a Gap Analysis on their company’s OSHA compliance. It doesn’t just highlight where a gap is; it also helps you develop a strategic plan to close that gap. There are three stages in the OSHA Challenge. Right now, we’re in Stage 1—the Gap Analysis stage. We’re finding out where we’re strong and where we’re weak in our safety program. One way to evaluate the gap and determine where you are is to conduct personnel safety audits.

What is involved with the next two steps of the OSHA Challenge?

After we do the Gap Analysis, it becomes a matter of developing the action plan moving forward: How do we get better in this area, or how do we deliver this type of training? That really depends on feedback from our teams in the field as well as management. The goal is to come up with the best solution for everyone. Stage 3 is maintaining—maintaining through new employees, maintaining through training, maintaining through audits. You really just want to make safety a culture, so that anyone who works for the company knows what to do… and knows what’s right and what’s wrong as far as safety is concerned. Once you get to that level, then OSHA will actually bring in its own auditors to evaluate your entire safety program. If you pass, you become a Voluntary Protection Program member, and that’s our goal at NAT’L.

What are some of the risks associated with NOT conducting safety audits?

The biggest risk is the potential for an incident or accident. If we don’t perform audits or safety training, we may “get by” for numerous years, but a single incident could cost someone’s life or it could result in multiple, large fines. Other hazards include the potential to cause damage to a customer’s property because workers didn’t know how to properly handle that property. Audits also promote consistency; without them we run the risk of everyone doing things their own way. We need uniformity within the company and the way everyone performs their jobs.

For more information about developing a safety program, contact National Field Services today.

Related Links
New National Training Center Ready to Educate Workforce, Consumers on Electrical Safety Issues
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