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Risk Management

Driving Success in Your Safety Program Through Leading Indicators

Lagging indicators, like loss frequency, may be necessary in measuring the effectiveness of your safety program, but they’re not telling the entire story. Organizations that want to drive continuous improvement and progress can start with these proactive metrics.

April 22, 2022

How do your supervisors and managers respond when you ask them to measure the effectiveness of your safety program? It might be challenging unless your organization has developed performance standards based on safety results that have leading indicators. Encouraging employees to strive for fewer injuries is probably not enough unless there are specific means to measure these goals through leading indicators.

“One way to improve the effectiveness of your safety process is to think differently about how it is measured. However, finding the perfect measure of safety is a challenging task,” said Steve Simon, Senior Risk Control Manager at Safety National. “You want to measure both the bottom-line results of safety (lagging indicators) and your facility’s success in preventing accidents and incidents (leading indicators).”

When an organization thinks about lagging indicators, it is measuring:

  • Loss frequency
  • OSHA rates
  • Lost workdays
  • Workers’ compensation costs

One of the significant drawbacks to using only lagging indicators of safety performance is that it provides data on how many people were injured and the severity of that injury or claim, but not the success of your company’s incident and accident prevention methods.

Organizations that include leading indicators of safety performance are measuring process and progress metrics that include:

  • Frequency of safety meetings and trainings completed
  • Number of ergonomic improvements that were implemented
  • Frequency of safety audits/assessment and hazard recognition
  • Number of employees who successfully returned to work or had accommodations

Leading indicators focus on future safety performance and continuous improvement measures that help define your safety program. These measures are proactive, preventative and regularly report employees’ injury prevention success. More organizations are starting to shift toward using leading indicators to drive continuous improvement and progress to measure the effectiveness of their safety programs and projects.

It is a principle of modern management that “what gets measured, gets done.” As you make safety measurable in all aspects of the workplace, you will be closer to connecting outcome-based lagging indicators with the performance of those strategic leading indicators that make the most difference. Over the long term, this will provide your management team with the results to make decisions on future objectives and resource allocation. Utilizing these criteria will help you drive better results in your decision-making when someone asks, “How effective is your safety program?”