Safety Inspection vs. Safety Audit in Construction


While it may seem that safety inspection and safety audit are interchangeable terms, there are fundamental differences between them. Both are tools to achieve EHS compliance within an organization. However, their approach to a safer working environment differs from each other.

According to the International Standard Organization (ISO), an inspection is defined as “determination of conformity to specified requirements.”

On the other hand, the ISO defines an audit as a “systematic, independent and documented process for obtaining objective evidence and evaluating it objectively to determine the extent to which the audit criteria are fulfilled.”

So these definitions highlight several layers of primary objectives, levels of complexities, and outcomes between inspection and audit. 

Safety Inspection vs Safety Audit: What Is the Difference?

Here are the critical differences between safety inspection and safety audit that will clarify the confusion between the two terms. 

Primary Objectives

The primary objective of a safety inspection is to find out if the safeguarding measures at construction sites are following the guidelines or not. Therefore, it focuses on the immediate hazards and risky behaviors that may lead to accidents at construction sites.

For example, an inspection would find answers to questions like:

  • Are workers wearing hard hats at construction sites?
  • Is there any fluid or hydraulic leakage from equipment?
  • Is scaffolding fully planked and resting on a stable surface?

On the other hand, a safety audit is a more in-depth analysis of an organization’s safety policy. Its primary objective is to assess whether its safety policy adheres to the latest state and federal safety regulations.

That is why a safety audit tries to find answers to overarching questions like:

  • What systems are in place for the reporting and investigation of accidents?
  • Who is responsible for reviewing the construction site’s safety policy?
  • How are risks associated with safety hazards identified?

Level of Complexity

A safety inspection is usually a simple yes-and-no checklist that discovers the presence or lack of safety compliance at a workplace. Businesses conduct inspections internally because it helps to have someone who knows the workplace inside out. That employee – usually a manager or a supervisor – can figure out if something is out of order.

On the contrary, a safety audit is a detailed report covering risk assessment, documentation, and training procedures. It will look for long-term deviation in compliance with local, state, and federal safety regulations. 

Hence it is beneficial to have a third-party professional from outside the organization conduct an audit. External auditing will also make sure that there is no bias in the final report.


The outcome of a safety inspection is pretty straightforward. First, it would uncover risks and hazards at a workplace in real-time. For example, if there is not enough lighting for workers at a construction site during the night, the inspection report will suggest adding more bulbs on the site to avoid accidents and injuries. 

On the other hand, the safety audit will try to determine why there was no lighting at the construction site in the first place. It will detail how inadequate lighting can jeopardize employees’ health and provide solutions to eliminate the root cause of the problem. Finally, it will ensure that the same issue does not arise anywhere else in the future.

How to Conduct a Construction Site Safety Audit

It is crucial to keep in mind that the purpose of an audit is to find out if a company’s safety policy is following local, state, and federal safety regulations. While there can be different types of audits at a construction site, the process of carrying out a safety audit is somewhat similar.

Step 1: Decide When to Audit at the Construction Sites

You must conduct an audit unannounced for it to be effective. The managers and supervisors should not get enough time to sweep issues and problems under the rug, that is, if they choose to. It could result in a skewed and incompetent audit that will not benefit the stakeholders. 

Step 2: Examine the Work Environment at the Construction Site 

Before starting an audit, an auditor should walk through the construction site and overview the state of affairs. It will give a general idea of what are the glaring issues at the site. Also, don’t forget to check the parking lots, restrooms, and storage rooms for potential safety hazards.

Step 3: Check the Employee Workplace

The next step will involve thorough scrutiny of the actual workplace where employees spend most of their time during their shift. If possible, get a map of the facility. It will ensure the auditor does not miss any area during the scrutiny. The audit should document any discrepancies and deviations from the rules and regulations in this stage.

However, if the construction site is enormous, it would be better to investigate a portion. Otherwise, it would take weeks to complete the audit. For example, if an auditor is tasked to audit the construction site of five commercial blocks, it is easy to audit just one block and extrapolate the findings.

Step 4: Share the Findings With Stakeholders

Once the audit is complete, the auditor should share the report with the stakeholders and recommend steps to improve the overall workplace safety strategy of the organization. 

That way, stakeholders can ensure the construction sites are following all the safety guidelines. In addition, it will save them from predatory litigation in case of unfortunate workplace accidents.

Is There a Digital Safety Audit Checklist?

The short answer is yes. Thanks to technology, safety audits are no longer carried out with pen and paper. Instead, companies use digital solutions to conduct internal and external safety audits

Whether the audits are related to safety, finance, or a project, they can use custom checklist templates to get the job done.


Pulse is a state-of-the-art EHS platform that takes care of your company’s inspections and audits. It doesn’t matter what industry your company operates, be it retail, hospitality, construction, manufacturing, or logistics. Pulse can help you automate your workflows related to the environment, health, and safety.

It generates detailed reports, creates automated alerts, analyzes results, and much more in one seamless offering. Register for a free trial of Pulse Pro and get access to advanced dashboards and analytics that makes safety audit a breeze.