Safetip #101: 3 Different Categories of Leading Indicators

October 25, 2017

This week’s Safetip is about selecting and tracking leading indicators of all three different types: Operations-based, Systems-based, and Behavior-based.

Leading Indicators Are Classified in Three Broad Categories

The Campbell Institute at the National Safety Council has published many research reports on leading indicators. One of them, Practical Guide to Leading Indicators: Metrics, Case Studies & Strategies, includes a matrix of key leading indicators, their definitions and associated metrics. The matrix represents a collaborative benchmarking effort on the part of Institute member organizations.

The report categorizes leading indicators. Here are the three types along with definitions and examples from the report:

Operations-Based Leading Indicators

Indicators that are relevant to the functioning of an organization’s infrastructure (e.g. machinery, operations); potentially site-specific. Examples include:

  • Compliance
  • Risk assessment
  • Preventive and corrective actions
  • Equipment and preventive maintenance
  • Prevention through design
  • Training
  • Management of change process

Systems-Based Leading Indicators

Indicators that relate more to the management of an EHS system; can be rolled up from a facility level to a region/business unit or corporate level. Examples include:

  • Hazard identification and recognition
  • Leading indicator component evaluation
  • Learning system
  • Permit-to-work system
  • Safety perception survey
  • Communication of safety
  • Recognition, disciplinary and reinforcement system
  • EHS system component evaluation
  • Risk assessment
  • Preventive and corrective actions

Behavior-Based Leading Indicators

Indicators that measure the behavior or actions of individuals or groups in the workplace; people-to-people interactions related to supervision and management; useful at site-specific level through management level. Examples include:

  • Leadership engagement
  • Employee engagement and participation
  • At-risk behaviors and safe behaviors
  • Area observations and walkarounds
  • Off-the-job safety

Pages 14-18 of the report include the full matrix with descriptions and associated metrics for each of the leading indicators mentioned above.

Take into Account All Three Categories

All three categories should be represented in the set of leading indicators selected and tracked by your organization, and ideally there should be a balance between the three. But because each organization is unique and there are differences between industries, what constitutes an ideal balance will vary. The key is to consider all three categories and make sure that they are well represented for your type of organization.

Download the Verdantix Green Quadrant EHS Software 2019 report and learn more about the 23 most prominent EHS software vendors:

Green Quadrant EHS Software 2019