Safetip #22: Leverage Existing Metrics for Leading Indicators

March 30, 2016
By Jean-Grégoire Manoukian

This week’s Safetip is about leading indicators and a way to select the metrics to start with.

Leading Indicators Track Proactive Initiatives That Enhance Safety

and lagging indicators are metrics that are measured to assess safety performance. Organizations track both sets of indicators to help determine what needs to be done to improve the safety culture. Lagging indicators measure what has already happened (e.g. number of incidents, days away from work), while leading indicators are defined by the Campbell Institute at the National Safety Council as:

“Proactive, preventative, and predictive measures that monitor and provide current information about the effective performance, activities, and processes of an EHS management system that can drive the identification and elimination or control of risks in the workplace that can cause incidents and injuries.”

Look at What is Already Being Measured

Many organizations recognize the value of tracking leading indicators, but they do not know where to start. However there is some good advice from the Campbell Institute’s white paper Elevating EHS Leading Indicators: From Defining to Designing.

Participants included in the research all agreed that one way to decide which leading indicators to track is to look at what an organization is already measuring and if any of those pieces of data could serve as predictors of future incidents. This approach is also helpful because analyzing data that is already available would not task work sites with the burden of providing information beyond what they are already tracking. For example, one of the research participants had been keeping records on the number of training hours since the early 2000s. The tracking of training hours as a leading indicator was first adopted at individual sites before being rolled up to corporate only a couple years ago, the white paper says.

At another company that was also part of the research, there were many best practices within individual business units that became adopted at the corporate level. The “bottom-up” approach to leading indicators should not be dismissed, the Campbell Institute says. The lesson is to look within an organization for best practices that can potentially be implemented company-wide.