Measuring safety success through leading indicators
When I began my career, I worked for a small construction company that primarily tracked lagging indicators. However, as I transitioned to larger organizations with more mature safety cultures, I realized the significance of leveraging leading indicators for safety success. Leading indicators are proactive in nature and provide valuable insights into what employees are doing regularly to prevent injuries. They offer a broader perspective on safety performance beyond the limited scope of lagging indicators.
The power of measurement
Implementing a safety scorecard and measuring key performance indicators is crucial because what gets measured in your business tends to improve over time. The exercise of reporting on scorecard numbers helps to stay on track, foster accountability and drive continuous improvement. By reviewing leading indicators regularly, you can identify trends and issues before they affect your bottom line, allowing you to take proactive action and prevent injuries.
Examples of leading indicators
One program I implemented for engineering, procurement and construction projects was the BeSafe Index, aimed at improving EHS performance. It encompassed activities such as visible leadership and personal ownership for safety, participating in and leading workplace inspections and safety meetings, developing skills to address individual behaviors effectively through training, coaching and incentivizing desired behaviors and measuring progress. These indicators were specific, measurable, accountable, reasonable and timely, following the SMART principle.
Keeping it simple and customizable
To ensure the success of your scorecard, it is crucial to keep it simple and focus on activities that promote employee safety, such as training, inspections and safety meetings. The types and number of leading indicators can be customized based on your organization's needs, resources and evolving abilities over time. By following this approach, you can identify meaningful trends and take action to continuously improve HSE performance. The OSHA report, using leading indicators to improve safety and health outcomes, is a thorough resource to help organizations learn how to use leading indicators to improve safety and health outcomes in the workplace.
Industry insights and recommendations
Drawing from key issue collaboration session at Safety 2022 on measuring safety in construction, I identified common themes for leading indicators. These included a robust training program with performance evaluations, pre-planning processes for hazard identification and control, leadership and employee engagement programs, and the implementation of best industry practices. Customizing these indicators to your organization's context is vital for success.
Empowering the organization through metrics
A safety management system forms the foundation for achieving and sustaining excellent safety performance. It requires an actively engaged workforce, buy-in and trust. Worker participation through safety committee meetings, where feedback is shared, lessons are learned and suggestions for improvement are captured, empowers employees to take ownership of their safety and contribute to the continual improvement of the system.
Driving continual improvement
Metrics play a critical role in driving continual improvement. They allow you to measure the effectiveness of your safety and health management system, identify areas for improvement and assess performance. By following the SMART principle, planning, setting goals, communicating with workers, collecting data periodically and acting on the results, you can continually enhance your safety and health performance.
Overcoming challenges and achieving success
Challenges may arise during the implementation of a safety management system. Addressing these challenges through worker participation and engagement is key to ensuring its effectiveness. By actively seeking feedback, adjusting processes and procedures and promoting a culture of continual improvement, you can create an environment where safety thrives.
The beauty of a robust safety management system lies in its ability to empower organizations through the strategic utilization of these leading indicators. By implementing comprehensive frameworks, collecting relevant data and analyzing it effectively, we gain valuable insights that drive continuous improvement and a proactive approach to safety.
To explore how the shift from lagging indicators to leading indicators can prevent workplace injuries and illnesses, reduce costs associated with incidents and improve productivity and organizational performance, read our e-book, safety maturity curve - a journey from lagging indicators to leading indicators.
Take a moment and reflect on the significance of safety management systems and the power of leading indicators. Let's continue the dialogue, share our experiences and support each other on this journey towards safer, more productive organizations. Together, we can shape a future where every individual goes to work knowing they'll return home safely.
If you’re stuck with the challenge of fitting leading indicators into your EHS program, take a moment to read our free e-book which provides the 4 main questions you should ask and how to address themDownload now