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Tracking Leading and Lagging Indicators for Safety

Posted by Danielle Goddard on February 7, 2019
   

All organizations set benchmarks to track their progress in reaching their business goals. Measuring the performance of your safety program should be no different.

So, how can EHS managers gauge your company’s safety performance? Start by carefully considering your safety objectives. What problems are you looking to solve? What areas of your safety program need improvement?

Answering these questions will help you to identify the right leading and lagging indicators to track. These indicators reveal important insights into the overall health of your safety management system.

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So, what’s a lagging indicator?

Lagging indicators are key performance indicators (KPIs) that look at past statistics. By definition, they’re reactive, not proactive. They can be used to get an understanding of how many incidents took place at your organization, and how severe the injuries or illnesses were.

 

What are some examples of lagging indicators?

The number or location of OSHA recordable incidents; incident rates, including Total Case Incident Rate (TCIR), Days Away, Restricted, or Transferred (DART) Rate, and Lost Time Incident Rates (LTIR); are all examples of lagging indicators.

While it’s necessary to track lagging indicators, unfortunately, they provide little direction or insight into the behaviors and conditions that precede incidents. That’s why they should not be the only metrics that you examine. Lagging indicators are most useful when they are reviewed together with leading indicators.

What is a leading indicator?

Unlike lagging indicators, leading indicators are predictive metrics that focus on continuous improvement.

According to Jonathan Thomas, director of safety management solutions for the National Safety Council (NSC), leading indicators measure safety events or behaviors that occur before an incident.

In a whitepaper produced by NSC’s Campbell Institute, safety experts agreed that leading indicators can be defined as:

“Proactive, preventative measures that monitor and provide current information about the effective performance, activities, and processes of an EHS management system ….”

These metrics can give safety professionals advanced warning of potential problems so that preventive steps can be taken.

Leading indicators should:

  1. Measure the positive: what people are doing versus failing to do.
  2. Improve or influence constructive problem-solving.
  3. Allow for continuous improvement.
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What are some examples of leading indicators?

The root causes of near misses, the percent of inspections or behavior based safety observations completed at a location, and training attendance and pass rates are all examples of leading indicators.

 

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