Set a Goal for Each Safety Leading Indicator - Safetip #184

Safety Tip and Best Practice
September 18, 2019
By Jean-Grégoire Manoukian

Our latest Safetip is about setting a goal and measuring progress for each leading indicator that you track.

Leading Indicators and Lagging Indicators

Leading indicators track safety activities and initiatives that are proactive and preventive in nature. They help to evaluate the effectiveness of a safety and health program.

If your leading indicators are not improving, that’s a sign that you have potential problems ahead, which is why leading indicators have predictive characteristics.

Lagging indicators measure events that have already happened, such as injuries, days away from work, etc. They can help you identify specific hazards or areas of failure. In essence, lagging indicators measure failure.

Ideally you should use both leading and lagging indicators. You should also use lagging indicators to evaluate the effectiveness of the activities tracked by leading indicators.

Set Goals and Measure Progress

You selected the leading indicators that you want to use. You’re all set to collect the data. So you’re ready to track leading indicators, right? Not so fast!

A recent document from OSHA on leading indicators highlights the importance of setting a goal for each leading indicator, and periodically measuring progress towards the goal after tracking the indicator for a while.

Measuring the progress towards meeting the goals allows you to better assess the effectiveness of the leading indicators.

For example, let’s say you want to track the percentage of monthly inspections completed on time. You fix a goal of 100%. If you’re not making progress towards the goal, that’s an indication that you need to improve the way you conduct inspections.

If you’re seeing the percentage steadily increase, or even reach 100%, track also how lagging indicators are doing at the same time. If, for example, incidents or equipment malfunctions are not decreasing, that may indicate that your inspections are not verifying the right things and they’re not successfully identifying hazards. Or it may indicate that your safety program has other flaws that need to be addressed, beyond inspections.

Finally, if you reach the goal of 100%, and your lagging indicators show improvements, that may indicate that completing inspections on time is a leading indicator that is indeed proactive, preventive and predictive (but check if other initiatives besides inspections may have also played a role). It also means that the indicator can be used to evaluate the effectiveness of your safety and health program.


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Author

JG

Jean-Grégoire Manoukian

Content Thought Leader