Safetip #66: Implement a New Leading Indicator Every Year
Start with a Base Set of Leading Indicators
The Campbell Institute at the National Safety Council (NSC) defines leading indicators as “proactive, preventive and predictive measures to identify and eliminate risks and hazards in the workplace that can cause incidents and injuries.” In contrast, lagging indicators measure what has already happened, such as incidents, days away from work, etc. Leading indicators are useful because they help to measure the effectiveness of proactive activities and programs that aim to prevent future incidents and improve safety.
While most organizations are convinced of the need to track leading indicators, they can find it overwhelming to implement all the leading indicators that they want to track. But the key is to start with a few leading indicators. You can determine which ones to select by:
- Looking at what is already getting measured and determining if they can be used as leading indicators.
- Determining key risk areas and choosing leading indicators that can address them.
- Taking into account the top leading indicators tracked by your industry or across all sectors.
- Determining which leading indicators can be implemented with relatively little time and effort.
Add a New Leading Indicator Each Year and Evaluate All Indicators
Once your initial set of leading indicators is established, embark on a path of continuous improvement by adding one (or two if possible) new leading indicator every year. With your first leading indicators, you will gain experience in tracking them. Valuable feedback will be received and many lessons will be learned that can be applied moving forward. This will allow you to implement each new leading indicator more effectively every year.
But there is more you should do. Once a year, in addition to selecting a new leading indicator, take the opportunity to:
- Evaluate all your leading indicators. For example, run correlations between leading indicators against lagging metrics to evaluate the effectiveness of leading indicators. Determine if the information provided by your leading indicators is meaningful.
- Determine whether your leading indicators are providing actionable insight, in addition to being informative. It’s not enough to simply measure. You must also take action if metrics are not improving. For example, if scores on post-training tests keep deteriorating, maybe that’s a sign that your training program is not effective, and therefore you need to take action to improve it.
To learn more about the topic of leading indicators, take a look at the Campbell Institute’s white paper “Elevating EHS Leading Indicators: From Defining to Designing”. You can also read all our blog posts on leading indicators.
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