Safetip #39: Use Lagging Indicators to Evaluate Leading Indicators

July 27, 2016
By Jean-Grégoire Manoukian

This week’s Safetip is about leading indicators, and how lagging indicators can be used to evaluate their effectiveness.

Lagging and Leading Indicators Can Work Together

Many safety professionals argue that tracking leading indicators is a more effective way of improving safety performance than lagging indicators. Lagging indicators measure what has already happened (e.g. number of incidents, days away from work), while leading indicators measure proactive, preventative, and predictive initiatives before incidents happen (training, safety meetings, number of observations, etc). While leading indicators provide a better measure of safety performance, lagging indicators are also helpful because they can used to evaluate leading indicators, according to the Campbell Institute’s white paper “Elevating EHS Leading Indicators: From Defining to Designing”.

Establish Relationships Between Lagging and Leading Indicators

According to the Campbell Institute’s research, a successful safety management system consists of a balance of leading and lagging indicators. For Cummins, one of the research participants, without lagging indicators, it would be difficult to know whether leading indicators were being effective. It’s helpful to compare leading indicators to lagging indicators to determine their effectiveness, and see whether they’re driving the right behavior and reducing risk, according to Cummins.

According to ExxonMobil, another research participant, if you keep measuring leading indicators but lagging results are not improving, that means either you’re measuring the wrong things or you have execution issues.

Members and partners of the Campbell Institute suggest running correlations of leading indicators against lagging metrics to evaluate the effectiveness of leading indicators. This can help determine if an organization’s leading indicators are providing meaningful and actionable information.

Ultimately, correlating leading indicators with lagging indicators helps you measure the outcomes of your EHS management programs. For example, if an increase in the number of reported near misses and observations is accompanied by a decrease in the number of injuries and accidents, that may be an indication that your EHS programs are producing positive results.

Visit Enablon Insights again next Wednesday for a brand new Safetip!

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