In 2003, committee members in the Construction Owners Association of Alberta (COAA) met about lagging and leading indicators. Their focus was to push toward a more safety-preventive workforce with leading indicators or activities. At the end of their meeting, they came up with over 300 leading indicators, of which they came up with the top 10 that would be useful in evaluating the performance of contractors.

The Top 10 Leading Indicators

Although there are ten leading indicators listed below, the four italicized indicators (7 through 10) have best practices in place. For that reason, we will focus on the other six leading indicators in this article.

  1. Active management safety participation – tours/walkabouts/written communications
  2. Employee perception surveys are conducted to determine the state of Environment Health and Safety (EH&S) health
  3. The Supervisor’s safety activity is evaluated at regular intervals
  4. The focus (compliance) observation process is in place and working
  5. A hazard identification/analysis process is in place prior to the start of a Project
  6. The near miss/near hit reporting process is in place and working
  7. Behavioral-based observation process is in place and working
  8. Pre-screening of employees Drug and Alcohol Testing (D&A) is conducted
  9. The contractor selection (EH&S) process is in place prior to the start of a Project
  10. Federal Labor Relations Authority (FLRA) is conducted prior to the start of new work/at the beginning of a shift

Best Practices for 6 Leading Indicators of Safety Performance

Active Management Safety Participation

This leading activity serves two purposes: to show support through positive behavior and engagement with proper written communication, and to provide an informal platform for workers to share perspectives without fear of reprisal. The thought behind this indicator is to motivate employees and instill a positive work culture which leads to an organization’s overall success.

The Project Regional, Operations, and Construction Managers are globally responsible for engineering, procurement, construction, pre-commissioning, and start-up standby of a project. The Project Manager manages the scope of work and answers directly to the Construction Manager. Field Supervision, consisting of the Superintendent, General Foremen, and Supervisors/Foremen, is accountable for the daily direct supervision of hands-on workers. They plan and organize safe work through schedules and cost estimates.

Conducting Employee Perception Surveys

These surveys are completed to get feedback from employees on the efficacy of the current projects and EHS culture and to give upper management insight into the perspectives of different departments and line management. Ultimately, these surveys identify how employees feel about critical factors contributing to a healthy workplace.

Leading indicator questions that senior construction management can ask on these surveys should incorporate culture, planning, leadership, communications, hiring, benefits, career development, immediate supervisors, development training, teamwork, empowerment, stress, workload, recognition, physical conditions, job security, and overall satisfaction with the company. These questions can be asked through different surveys, such as; corporate culture surveys, productivity surveys, and EHS surveys.

Evaluating Supervisor Activities at Regular Intervals

The purpose of checking supervisor activities on a regular basis is to identify measurement tools that hold supervisors accountable in areas such as incident investigations, inspections, orientations, and training. This measurement is to show both the failures and successes in performance.

There are three ways to measure supervisory safety performance: results measurement, activities measurement, and critical activities measurement. Of the three, result measurements are used the most and consist of the number of incidents, costs, estimated costs, damage costs, frequency and severity indicators, loss ratios, and the number of unsafe acts.

Focus Observations

Focus observations are an advanced measurement technique that provides systematic compliance through the use of flow charts to define the process and observation checklists to measure compliance in construction activities. 

These five steps should be followed to ensure focus observations work effectively: 

Step 1 – Develop compliance measurement checklists

Step 2 – Establish operational parameters for compliance measurement teams and conduct compliance measurements

Step 3 – Compile data, input, and analysis

Step 4 – Distribute and disseminate data

Step 5 – Develop and implement corrective actions and commendations.


Implementing Hazard Identification/Analysis Prior to Starting Projects

Most hazards are identified at the beginning of a project in the design and developmental phase. Best practices recommend the result of the hazard identification and analysis process are brought up at the various design reviews and contractor meetings. A copy of all the hazards should be given to the hands-on contractors at the pre-bid meeting. The hazards that should be considered are the location of the project, health and hygiene, safety, environmental, and security concerns.

Near-Miss Reporting

Near-miss reporting identifies opportunities to reduce exposure to risks and improves EH&S processes like delegation of safety responsibility, increased safety awareness, and the data collection pool. There are seven steps to managing a thriving near-miss process: identification, reporting, communications, cause analysis, corrective action, implementing corrective action, and follow-up.

Becoming Proactive in Safety Performance Using Leading Indicators

Following these six outlined leading indicators, including the four previously established, leads to a proactive versus reactive organization. COAA understands that every workplace operates differently. Their ultimate goal is for organizations to use these best practices as a guiding tool to improve safety performance.



Leading Indicators of Safety Performance, COAA Construction Owners Association of Alberta