Leading indicators are essential to organisational safety performance. These indicators are utilised by industries to identify potential hazards at the workplace and help prevent injuries from occurring.
Leading indicators can include training, assessments, hazard reporting and quality communication. These measures help to create a safety culture and encourage safe behaviours in the workplace.
To measure the effects of these indicators and measurements, organisations may find it essential to implement lagging indicators.
Performance is to safety as leading is to lagging
Leading indicators measure the potential of injury from a hazard, while lagging indicators help measure the effectiveness of policy.
Lagging indicators help an organisation measure incidents and accidents statistically. These indicators are a traditional safety metric to indicate progress in terms of safety compliance.
It should be noted that lagging indicators do not show exactly how well a company is doing at prevention. Lagging indicators should be a compliment indicator to leading indicators; this will ensure that you are receiving the most intuitive data to protect your workers and staff in terms of safety.
When paired with leading indicators they can show the progress leading indicators have had on your organisation.
Examples of lagging indicators
Below are just a few examples of lagging indicators and how your organisation can benefit from them.
Injury frequency and severity
Recording injury frequency before implementing safety procedures sets up a benchmark to measure progression once more safety procedures are implemented.
The details of injury on the worksite are important to measure so managers may find patterns in the data and identify major hazards for the organisation.
Even if someone did not get seriously injured, managers cannot overlook near misses, including the event's frequency and trend.
Hindsight is an important part of management and understanding the data for near misses and setting systems in place to ensure that a near miss does not become an injury.
Lost workday rate
Calculating the lost workday rate can be a good metric for identifying progress for safety procedures throughout the company.
This metric can be a good identifier for productivity and if leading indicators are used to implement new programs, then a lost workday rate should improve.
Managers should not base decisions around this metric; however, due to many ethical reasons.
The rate may improve, but near misses could be increasing, which means that a larger injury may occur in the near future.
Managers should utilise this metric solely as a complementary point of data for progress.
Worker’s compensation cost
Documenting and managing the cost of worker’s compensation can help establish a benchmark for safety progress throughout your organisation.
The cost will fluctuate with the rate and severity of accidents throughout the organisation. Maintaining a low cost can help show the effectiveness of safety procedures or may indicate possible places the procedures can be improved.
All of the above examples are great ways to measure the effectiveness of leading indicators and safety procedures. This data should be used to compliment other, more effective metrics to deliver quality health and safety to all staff members and contractors.
Where to from here?
After the conversation on leading and lagging indicators, your organisation should develop a safety program that incorporates both types of indicators in order to achieve the best results.
Leading indicators can provide the framework by which your company will operate in terms of safety. Lagging indicators will help measure the relevance of the framework and procedures using goal-specific outcomes.
Workplace trends are beginning to shift towards utilising leading indicators more in safety procedures and future organisational decisions should reflect that. Prevention is always better than reflection in terms of safety.
Meet with key members throughout the company and identify which indicators will best meet the safety needs and goals.
Once identified, implement indicators in stages to help collect progressive data on each indicator. Understanding which indicators are working and which are not necessary can also help achieve a more successful safety program.
Finally, while collecting internal data, delegate a staff member to collect data externally. Looking at what other companies in the industry are doing can act as a benchmark for these indicators. Managers should also be made aware of the many compliance standards for safety; indicators should first and foremost achieve a level of compliance in the industry. Once these standards are met, continually search for ways to progress and push the minimum safety measures.
- Middlesworth, M. (2017). A Short Guide to Leading and Lagging Indicators of Safety Performance. Ergonomics Plus. Retrieved from http://ergo-plus.com/leading-lagging-indicators-safety-performance/
- Peterson, S. (2014). Leading vs. Lagging KPIs: What Successful Companies Measure. AccountEx Report. Retrieved from https://www.accountexnetwork.com/blog/2014/10/leading-indicators/
- UL. (2017). Using Leading and Lagging Safety Indicators to Manage Workplace Health and Safety Risk. Retrieved from https://library.ul.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/40/2015/02/UL_WP_Final_Using-Leading-and-Lagging-Safety-Indicators-to-Manage-Workplace-Health-and-Safety-Risk_V7-LR1.pdf