By: Douglas M. Dvorchak, 2019 Chair of the Board, ABC Keystone
How can contractors measure safety success? Many factors can be evaluated: Fewer accidents and injuries from one year to the next can indicate success. Evaluating OSHA 300 logs, comparing Experience Modification Rates and lowering insurance costs can also be measures of success. These are all lagging indicators which represent events that happened in the past. Leading indicators are needed to focus on what is happening today to ensure these incidents do not happen in the future.
According to The National Safety Council: “Leading indicators measure the events leading up to injuries and fatalities and also provide information about the current state of an organization’s safety management system. Specifically, leading indicators are designed to give advanced warning of potential problems so that preventive actions can be taken. Additionally, they help to reveal weaknesses in an organization’s procedures or employee behavior before they have a chance to cause real harm.”
The use of leading indicators is a proactive way to identify areas of your safety program that need improvement and can provide real time information regarding the state of any organization’s safety program. Using leading indicators can help predict safety systems breakdowns that could lead to accidents and/or injuries.
Leading indicators can be classed into three categories: Operations Based, Systems Based and Behavior Based. Operations Based focuses on the functioning of the organization. This method measures and evaluates training, preventive and corrective actions, risk assessment, compliance, etc. Systems Based is the management of health and safety systems. This includes discipline and reinforcement systems, communication, hazard analysis, etc. Behavior Based leading indicators measure the behavior or actions of individuals or groups in the workplace along with people to people interaction. This quantifies leadership engagement, at-risk behaviors, and area observations.
Defining and identifying leading indicators does not have to be overly complicated or difficult, although the process to attaining world class safety does typically take some time. It also takes complete buy-in from the entire company – from upper management to front line personnel. Management buy-in is essential in setting the tone for safety throughout the company.
A few simple things can get you started on using leading indicators to improve your safety culture. If you don’t have a safety committee, start one. No matter the size of the organization, it is important to periodically take some time to review the company’s safety issues and struggles and create a plan of action to address them. Encourage upper management to be part of the safety committee to reinforce the company’s commitment to day to day safety efforts.
Secondly, communicate safety every day. I encourage safety huddles every morning to discuss the day’s work as well as what hazards will be present and how they will be handled. This gives everyone on the job the ability to ask questions to get the job done correctly and safely.
I encourage all members to complete the STEP (Safety Training Evaluation Process) application. STEP is comprised of 22 leading indicators that are proven to improve safety performance. It is a great way to evaluate your current safety program and can show how to use leading indicators to improve.
July 8, 2019