Are You Measuring Only Lagging Indicators to Track Health & Safety? If Yes, It’s Time to Change
Blog | February 9th, 2022

Are You Measuring Only Lagging Indicators to Track Health & Safety? If Yes, It’s Time to Change

John Doerr, the legendary venture capitalist, wrote a book titled “Measure What Matters”. The book focuses on a goal-setting technique called OKRs (Objectives and Key Results) that has helped companies like Intel and Google meet company-level, team-level, and individual goals.

The beauty of OKRs is that it helps you propagate enterprise-level goals, to various teams across the organization. Following the OKR methodology enables various teams – across the organization – to truly work together towards a common enterprise goal.

Why is this relevant from a health and safety perspective? The answer is obvious. Safety leaders must push their senior management leaders to make workplace safety and employee well-being a key priority, right at the top. There has to be an enterprise-level goal to meet certain standards when it comes to health and safety. This must then translate into team-level H&S metrics for various functional units including the health & safety team, manufacturing & production, logistics & operations, etc.

Once safety becomes a priority, it is important to run a metrics-driven process that makes it easy for various stakeholders to monitor and track both lagging and leading indicators.

Tracking Only Lagging Indicators is Not Enough

At ComplianceQuest, we published a whitepaper titled ‘Health and Safety Metrics Guide’. The paper focused on how building a safety-first organization is all about having a data-driven process.

Your organization’s Health & Safety (H&S) metrics and KPIs meet the following criteria:

  • Specific – clarity about what is being measured
  • Measurable – specifying factors that can be measured against set standards
  • Achievable – that which is realistic and can be achieved
  • Relevant – providing insights into overall safety performance
  • Timely – have a set time-frame

Metrics such as no. of incidents/accidents, no. of near-misses, and no. of safety observations have to be tracked. Other lagging indicators that need to be monitored are:

  • No. of OSHA reportable injuries
  • Severity of injuries
  • Worker compensation
  • Indirect costs from safety incidents
  • Absenteeism because of workplace-related illness or injuries

However, to drive continuous improvement of safety management processes, it is crucial to track (and monitor) leading indicators.

The H&S team must optimize its Safety Management System (SMS) to proactively mitigate risks and plan preventive actions. Using a next-generation EHS management system will help with building a data-driven and collaborative process to predict future safety incidents and plan actions to prevent an incident before it happens.

Key ‘Lead Indicators’ to be Tracked on an Ongoing Basis

Some of the lead indicators that safety leaders should be measuring to prevent or mitigate future safety risks include:

#1 – No. of Near Misses and Safety Observations

Reporting near-miss incidents and safety observations are crucial for proactive risk mitigation.

However, unlike a real incident, near-misses are hard to track and need employee participation. Employees are present in the scene and their observations become very important for identifying potential health and safety risks.

To be able to report, they need tools and training to understand the significance of reporting and be able to do it easily, without fear of being considered a tattler.

#2 – Management Commitment

Caught up in the need to improve topline and keep costs under control, safety can fall by the wayside, left to safety managers to react when an incident occurs rather than have a proactive approach. Though this may seem like some savings in the short run, in the long run, businesses may end up losing due to penalties, compensations, and litigation.

Management commitment to employee well-being will add weight to the initiatives and give employees confidence that they are cared for.

The management can express its involvement by:

  • Acknowledging an incident, near miss, observation report
  • Tracking the average number of days taken to investigate an incident, near miss, observation report
  • Tracking % of incidents near misses investigated
  • Tracking % of incidents near misses with root cause analysis performed
  • $/resources allocated to training per employee

Using ComplianceQuest’s Management Review software, this entire process can become streamlined and automated.

#3 – Inspections and Audits

Periodic audits and inspections are essential in identifying potential areas of risk and rectifying them for mitigation. They can be of two types, internal and external. Keeping track of the number of audits and inspections, the findings and the action taken based on findings will indicate the health of the organization’s safety practices.

Tracking the no. of audits/inspections and ensuring the quality of audits is a key lead indicator for proactive safety management.

#4 – Staying Current on Safety Training Requirements

This brings us to the importance of training and the need to track the number of training programs employees have attended and their effectiveness.

All staff, at all levels, need health and safety training to make safety integral to the workplace culture. This requires training programs to make them aware of all company’s procedures and policies and increase their engagement levels.

Tracking employee training records will drive overall safety and compliance levels. For some organizations, training certificates should not expire, and therefore, how many are active and updated becomes a key metric!

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