Leading and Lagging Indicators in Safety Performances

Author: Dr. Vince Marchesani
The two measurements in safety performance are lagging Indicators and leading Indicators. Lagging indicators are measurements after the fact, examples: Baseball, basketball, football, soccer and hockey scores, the present temperature and relative humidity, safety results; TRR, first aid injuries. Leading indicators have been used to measure safety activity. Examples include Job safety observations, near misses.
Problems in Using Lagging Indicators
The problems in using lagging indicators are: Wait time to learn the impact of a new program or modifications to existing programs designed to improve safety performance. Wait time is the time between introducing a new program or modification and the time it takes to receive the measurements (TRR, LTIR and the like), so program effectiveness may be determined. This could take three or more months. People continue to get hurt.
Medical Treatment Cases
Medical treatment cases (OSHA recordable injuries per 200,000 hours of work) are a reflection of compliance with OSHA standards. Companies typically establish safety performance targets based on medical treatment cases. Companies often compare themselves with other companies using the OSHA recordable injury rate.
Disabling Injuries and Fatalities
Disabling injuries are Injuries that have a permanent effect on the injured and their families. These types of injuries have a rippling effect on many more people than just the injured and their families.
Purposes of Leading Indicators
Leading indicators have been used to measure safety activity, but their full potential has not yet been realized. Examples Include: Attendance at safety meeting, Job safety observations, near misses, unsafe conditions and unsafe acts.
Leading Indicators to Project Future Lagging Indicator Safety Performance
In order to use leading indicators to project future lagging indicator safety performance, identify a near miss or an unsafe act or an unsafe condition (leading indicators) as an accident, identify the type of accident, e.g. cut, burn, Judge the probability of occurrence and the severity of the accident, place the result onto a matrix, graph the results onto a bar graph.
EHS Leading Indicators
Safety leading indicators such as near misses and job safety observations provide insight into possible future injury. Environmental and health leading indicators provide insight into possible major issues which could involve severe impacts and exposure to employees, off site communities, customers and end users. Such impacts could be devastating to a company’s image and bottom line.

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