Are your training programs helping employees work efficiently while avoiding injuries? How have your recent policy changes affected incident rates? Did your last round of JSAs catch all the hazards at each of your worksites? Overall, how effective is your safety program?
These are critical questions for every safety manager, but the answers don’t come easy. Between training, JSAs, audits and reports, it can be tough to track the impact of any given change. These tips will help you manage the most important variables and effectively track your company's safety performance.
When it comes to measurement, you have to consider the “what” before you can answer the “how.” Which variables will you measure, track and seek to improve? For most companies, “lagging” indicators are the first place to look. Lagging indicators are past statistics, and they include lost work days, workers’ compensation payouts, OSHA recordable injuries and injury frequency and severity. In general, these traditional metrics indicate your workers’ compliance with safety guidelines.
Useful as they are, lagging indicators can only measure the negative — how many people were hurt, how severe their injuries were, and what the costs were to your company. Even if these figures are where you want them to be now, your worksites may be filled with hazards that will cause injuries in the future.
To better understand the efficacy of your safety program, you also need leading indicators — measurements of the actions taken to prevent incidents from happening in the first place. Examples include safety training sessions, audits, employee surveys and protective equipment maintenance. In theory, the better these numbers are, the less likely your employees will be to suffer injuries on the job.
In practice, not all leading indicators are useful, and you’ll need to determine which ones are truly predictive of your workers’ risk levels. In most cases, an improvement in a predictive leading indicator will lead to an improvement in one or more lagging indicators. For instance, an increase in the number of workers attending lockout-tagout training in April might lead to fewer machinery-related injuries from May to August.
Over time, you’ll develop a set of leading indicators closely related to your lagging indicators, allowing you to create an ever more efficient safety program. In general, the best leading indicators will allow you to spot small but meaningful improvements in performance, be credible to the workers performing the tasks and foster feedback and problem-solving.
Repeat Offenders and Trends
The right lagging and leading indicators will take you far, but they won’t tell the whole story. To pinpoint your greatest sources of risk (and your biggest opportunities for improvement), you’ll need to track trends throughout your organization. Which work groups and individual employees are associated with the most near misses and injuries? Which specific hazards keep causing trouble, and are those hazards a problem at comparable worksites? Just as importantly, which teams and individuals are most responsible for improvement in your leading indicators, and how have their actions affected lagging indicators? Only with a bird’s-eye view of your successes and failures can you take the most decisive, efficient actions moving forward.
Digital Incident Tracking
Indicators and trends are far easier to track with a digital incident tracking system. Use customized, easy-to-complete forms to quickly and accurately record every incident, and filter according to employees, teams, divisions and worksites to find your greatest opportunities for improvement. With years’ worth of organized information at your fingertips, you can spend less time sorting through data and more time acting on it.
A Multifaceted Safety Program
Likewise, success in tracking requires that you manage a multitude of variables, and you need a system that can integrate everything at once. From training to JSAs to audits, reports and investigations, there is simply too much data to manually make sense of. To get the bird’s-eye view you need to make timely, cost-efficient improvements, use a comprehensive safety software suite that keeps all of your information and applications in a central repository. For more information on how to effectively manage documents, incidents and safety programs, download our guide, 9 Ways to Make Your Job as a Safety Manager Easier.