An essential element for the improvement of safety in the workplace is the ability to measure performance. We want to effectively manage the safety challenges that we face and develop best practices that enhance performance.
In order to reach those objectives, we must embrace safety performance measurement tools that help us to drive improved organizational and individual results. We must establish metrics that help us to evaluate the efficiency of the program and make data-driven decisions that help us to continually improve overall safety performance.
In order to continuously improve upon process safety performance, it is essential that measures are timely, meaningful, and relevant. We must ensure that we are measuring the right things at the right time, and with the appropriate level of efficiency. We want to:
- Identify root causes of safety incidents and issues
- Recognize leading indicators of safety incidents and issues
- Identify leading indicators of successful safety performance
- Use indicators to prevent incidents and enhance performance
Different measurement systems may be used by different organizations to predict safety performance and enhance results. We want to produce reliable and verifiable performance data that will help us to achieve results. This may require assessing trends, data, inconsistencies, safety climates, and training in the workplace in order to identify areas that need corrective action before an injury or accident occurs. Essentially, this comes through the evaluation of two primary types of metrics:
Lagging Metrics are safety measures that evaluate incidents or indicators that have already occurred, or outcomes. Assessing accidents that have already occurred in an attempt to prevent future accidents would be an application of a lagging metric.
Leading Metrics are safety measures that use the performance of key work processes, operating disciplines, or other proactive means to predict and control future incidents. For example, looking at participation in training and awareness initiatives as a means to predict safety performance would be an application of a leading metric. If measured and monitored, data collected for leading metrics can provide early indication of deterioration in the effectiveness of key safety systems, and allow for remedial action to restore the effectiveness of the system before any incidents take place.
A balanced implementation of leading and lagging metrics helps us to prepare an effective plan to measure progress and enhance the efficiency of our safety program. For example, let’s say that we used the following metrics to evaluate the effectiveness of the safety program:
- Frequency of recordable events that measure actual injuries and/or that occur at the location
- Investigation timeliness that measures how promptly the location responds to the incident, investigates the cause, completes corrective/preventative actions, and completes the necessary documentation.
- Training completion that documents the status of assigned/required training programs for attendance, participation and completion.
- Awareness initiatives that document the use of the various awareness initiatives offered by the company.
- Audit completion and results that indicate how the location performs based on company mandated programs, policies, guidelines and requirements.
While fundamental in nature, these metrics represent the location’s involvement in monitoring and improving safety conditions, and the effort to deliver on their responsibility of assuring safety awareness, correcting safety problems, preventing more serious safety incidents, and creating an effective safety culture within their facility. Such safety performance measurement tools help us to determine whether we are achieving the results that we demand and expect, allow for greater attention towards our established goals, and will lead to improved safety performance in our locations.
This post was originally published in 2016 and was updated June 18, 2018.