Safety and OSHA News

Key leading indicators for successful safety programs

If you’re reading this website, you probably know that there’s been an increased buzz around measuring leading indicators in workplace safety management. But, what are some good leading indicators for you to track? The National Safety Council has help in a new white paper. 

The NSC’s Campbell Institute has just published Practical Guide to Leading Indicators: Metrics, Case Studies & Strategies.

It’s the second phase of a research project conducted by Campbell to “advance the state of knowledge and practice regarding the use of leading indicators to improve environmental, health and safety performance.”

Campbell held discussions and phone interviews with member companies and industry experts to generate a list of leading indicators which fell into three categories:

  • Operations-based: Indicators that are relevant to the functioning of a company’s infrastructure. Examples: number of risk assessments performed; average number of days to close an incident investigation; completed equipment preventive maintenance.
  • Systems-based: Indicators that relate more to the management of an EHS system. Examples: number of near-miss reports; number and percentage of completed training goals; dollars spent per year on training.
  • Behavior-based: Indicators that measure the behavior or actions of people or groups in the workplace. Examples: number of employee suggestions implemented by leadership; number of employees participating in safety walk-arounds; hazard severity of employee observations.

Some indicators fall into more than one of the three categories. For example, indicators developed around risk assessments could be both systems- and operations-based.

Besides lists of measurable leading indicators, the white paper also includes case studies from several companies.

The Campbell Institute says its future work on leading indicators will delve more deeply into:

  • design of leading indicators
  • collection of metrics
  • cost of implementation
  • correlation with lagging indicators (such as injury rates), and
  • return on investment.

Has your company started tracking leading safety indicators? Which ones do you track? Let us know in the comments.

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  1. Tim Hellem says:

    We started tracking the following leading indicators:
    1) # of BBS performed
    2) # of monthly training completed ontime (computer based)
    3) Leadership safety walk participation rate
    4) Corrective actions completed on time rate
    in 2017 (prior to measuring leading indicators) we saw one of our stronger performing plants in terms of incident rates and participation in the above leading indicator categories, start sliding backwards. In 2016 they had record low incident rates and record high participation in safety walks, corrective action completion rates, employee training, BBS. In 2017 they had stepped back from this due to “competing priorities” (installing new equipment lines). As a results, they tripled their incident rates. For this reason I started monitoring and reporting out on/risk grading each of our plants based on a point system for each category and participation in each. They would get a green “Low Risk” if their participation was high, a yellow “Medium Risk” if they missed some things, a red “High Risk” if they missed more than a few and a black “Danger Risk”. This was presented at our monthly manufacturing leadership meetings attended by our director of operations. Initially this was an eye-opening experience for some of the plant managers who assumed they were doing better than they were. With that little bit of information, they went back to their teams and ensured active participation. I am happy to report that not only did their participation rates dramatically improve, but we had the lowest incident rate in our companies history in 2018.

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