In the world of safety, there are two types of metrics that are commonly used to measure safety performance: leading indicators and lagging indicators. While both types of metrics have their own benefits, leading indicators are quickly becoming the preferred choice for businesses worldwide. This is mostly due to their ability to bolster not just safety performance, but also safety culture by connecting people in a positive way to safety.
First, let’s define these types of metrics. Lagging indicators are measures of safety performance that are based on historical data, such as injury rates, lost workdays, and workers’ compensation claims. These metrics are okay for identifying trends and patterns in safety performance, but the damage has already occurred.
On the other hand, leading indicators are measures of safety performance that are predictive in nature and identify potential hazards before they result in incidents. These metrics include things like near-misses, safety training attendance, safety inspections, pre-start talks, post-task debriefs and employee participation in safety programs. By tracking and expanding leading indicators, businesses more easily can identify potential risks and take proactive steps to prevent incidents from occurring.
So, why are leading indicators better than lagging indicators for safety management? Here are just a few of the reasons:
· Leading indicators are proactive while lagging indicators are reactive. By focusing on leading indicators, businesses can identify potential hazards before they result in incidents, allowing them to take proactive steps to prevent accidents from occurring. This not only helps to reduce the number of incidents but also fosters a stronger and more cohesive safety culture.
· Leading indicators are more versatile than lagging indicators. While lagging indicators are limited to measuring historical data only, leading indicators can be customised to suit the specific needs and profile of a business. This means that businesses can tailor their safety metrics to focus on the areas that are most relevant to them, rather than being constrained by traditional and limiting lagging safety metrics.
· Leading indicators are far more effective for measuring safety culture. Safety culture is an essential aspect of safety, and leading indicators are much better suited for measuring it than lagging indicators. By tracking things like employee participation in safety programs and safety training attendance, businesses can get a much better sense of how committed their people are to safety.
While lagging indicators will always have their place, leading indicators are the future for businesses that want to take a proactive and positive approach to safety and foster meaningful safety cultures. By developing and using leading indicators, businesses will reduce hazards, take proactive steps to prevent incidents from occurring and create an environment where safety genuinely matters, to everyone.
Leading the way in using leading indicators to bolster safety performance and safety culture is the iCARE Safety Group. By optimising the use and development of leading indicators, iCARE is helping businesses to create safer workplaces and cultivate sustainable safety cultures.