A safe company demands continuous improvement to management programs, and measuring safety performance adds accuracy to your efforts. Use tools and resources to determine the success of the current environment as well as preventative measures. To track accidents and incidents, use both lagging and leading statistics to gauge safety performance.

Lagging indicators for past safety performance

Use lagging indicators to assess how frequently injuries occurred and how severe they were. You can track OSHA recordable injuries, determine the number of lost workdays and added Worker’s Compensation costs. These traditional safety metrics show progress with compliance and how effective your programs are in your facility. But they don’t address prevention efforts. A low injury rate doesn’t mean safety can’t be improved or shouldn’t be a priority. Circumstances and risk factors change and contribute to future injuries.

Leading indicators of future safety performance

A leading indicator measures activities carried out to control and prevent potential injury. They evaluate safety training programs, reduce risk factors, survey employee perception, and review safety audits. Use this Ergonomics chart to identify and streamline your safety processes. Stay focused on continuous safety improvements to be proactive and understand the effectiveness of the employees’ acts toward prevention.

Safety program best practices

Companies must shift to using leading indicators to drive safety performance rather than lagging indicators that measure failure. By tracking specific factors, you will be able to use feedback to predict problems and credit high performers who find and solve risk issues. Making the transition to a safety culture lets employees understand the strengths and weaknesses of their efforts and predict future success.

An example of a successful transition is Caterpillar’s Safety Strategic Improvement Process (SIP) integrating leading indicators as the primary way to reduce injuries and save money in the process.

The main elements of their SIP included:

  • Clearly defining accountability.
  • Clarifying roles that link relationships and responsibilities.
  • Prioritizing issues consistently to align resources.
  • Establishing standard targets and reporting performance.
  • Creating a safety culture throughout the company.
  • Using tools and metrics across global initiatives.
  • Recognizing positive employee safety measures and performance.
  • Engaging all leadership in the process from the top down.

When safety leaders are involved from all levels of the company to pursue consistent processes, incidents are resolved at the source, and people in every role are held accountable. Caterpillar saved $450 million in 10 years by addressing safety to “define, train, measure, and recognize.”

To improve the safety performance of your facility, it takes a combination of leading and lagging indicators. As you transition, the emphasis must be on the impact made by leading indicator metrics. Evaluate and track the number of people attending training and safety meetings to see who is reaching the goals that were discussed. Be sure to reward employees who make the extra effort to problem-solve and follow new practices.

Most organizations value safety, but their initiatives are not actively updated, and incidents continue to happen regularly. Company leaders must initiate a culture change by building safety into their overall processes and maintaining it. Daily actions and decisions reinforce behaviors to ensure a safe workplace. A consistent process makes gradual improvements until new habits develop. As leadership models the commitment and accountability of safety management to the employees, safe practices will become part of the daily work, not an afterthought.

In the last ten years, corporate cultures have been targeted by media for some rather embarrassing conduct. As a result, customers look at a company’s ethics and make decisions based on how they care for their employees and whether it’s a safe place to work. Your organization’s safety management program should be aligned with consumer priorities as well.

Sources and Downloadable Resources:
Aubrey Daniels International, create a culture of safe habits, https://www.aubreydaniels.com/workplace-safety

Aubrey Daniels International, Build a Positive and Engaging Work Environment, https://www.aubreydaniels.com/culture-change-0

Middlesworth, M., 2020. A Short Guide to Leading and Lagging Indicators of Safety Performance, https://ergo-plus.com/leading-lagging-indicators-safety-preformance/

Smith, S., 2012. Caterpillar: Using Proactive Leading Indicators to Create World-Class Safety, https://www.ehstoday.com/safety/article/21915371/caterpillar-using-proactive-leading-indicators-to-create-worldclass-safety