Active and reactive monitoring HSE

Active and reactive monitoring HSE

Active and reactive monitoring HSE systems shall be developed by the employer to continuously improve the activities of identification, evaluation and control of the risks that could not be avoided and the existing levels of protection and will arrange what is necessary for the adaptation. We are going to explain active versus passive monitoring in this blog according to HSE.

All accidents that have caused damage to the health of workers or when there are indications of insufficient preventive measures must be investigated. S0, Health and safety performance must be monitored. Safety monitoring can be classified according to different aspects, but if the moment in which the accident occurs is taken as a point of reference, two groups can be established: 

Active (proactive) monitoring: They are those safety monitoring that plan prevention before the accident occurs. To do this, all existing hazards in the workplace are identified and all risks are evaluated and an attempt is made to control them through technical and organizational adjustments. 

Reactive (passive) monitoring: These are those safety techniques that act once the accident has occurred and will try to determine its causes to propose and implement control measures, preventing it from happening again. Among all these, the investigation of accidents and the statistical control of the accident rate stand out.

What is meant by active monitoring?

In this monitoring system, you can find, for example, safety inspections, safety tours, and safety sampling among others. The safety inspection is an analysis that is carried out by observing directly, and in an orderly manner, the facilities and production processes to assess the risks of accidents. 

Active and reactive monitoring HSE
Active and reactive monitoring HSE

Active monitoring consists of verifying that standards are met and that the workplace is, in fact, safe and secure, free from health risks before any unwanted event occurs. The intention is to identify: 

  • Compliance with standards, so that good performance is recognized and maintained.
  • Nonconformity with the standards, so that the reason for that nonconformity can be identified and corrected. 

Safety inspections, sampling, and walkthroughs are three active monitoring methods that can be used to verify conformance to standards and play an important role in ensuring that safety standards are acceptable in the workplace. 

Active monitoring methods are often called leading indicators because they indicate the direction of future health and safety performance. If the main indicators move in a positive direction, then the possibility of having accidents is reduced. On the contrary, if leading indicators move in a negative direction, then the possibility of accidents increases.

For example, if safety inspections are carried out correctly and very few problems are detected during those inspections (because the workplace is well managed), then this is a positive leading indicator. That shows that health and safety standards are met, so there should be little chance of accidents happening. 

Nevertheless, if there is a decrease in the number of inspections that are carried out, or the inspections that are being carried out are not being done correctly, or there is an increase in the number of defects found, this is a leading indicator moving in the negative direction. Indicates that health and safety standards are not being met and therefore there is an increased possibility of accidents that happen. 

In many workplaces, active supervision plays a crucial role in verifying that the standards to be met are known. It allows management to resolve issues before those issues become critical. It also allows workers to see that the controls are carried out and perhaps participate in the control process. Worker and senior management involvement in this help reinforce a positive health and safety culture.

Performance standards may be related to the physical control of workplace hazards and conditions. For example, there are standards that a confined space entry must meet regarding the gas test, trained personnel, permit to work systems etc. to be considered safe. This can then be actively supervised by conducting a routine inspection of the confined space to ensure that it complies with the standard.

But it can also actively monitor health and safety management activities to give a measure of compliance with performance standards. 

Safety inspection

The term “safety inspection” implies an examination of the workplace and working conditions so that comparisons can be made with those expected performance standards. General routine inspection of the workplace to determine if health and safety standards are acceptable, or if corrective action is necessary (for example, a quarterly fire extinguishers inspection in a workplace). 

Active and reactive monitoring HSE
Active and reactive monitoring HSE

The statutory inspection of an item by a competent person to comply with a legal requirement (for example, the annual thorough inspection examination of an item of lifting equipment). 

What are safety inspections?

Safety inspections are a set of standardized technical procedures for the identification and prevention of accident risks or causal factors of occupational diseases. With this, the objective is to implement precautions to avoid the occurrence of potentially deadly occurrences for the life or physical integrity of all the company employees.

By identifying possible factors that can cause accidents, it is possible to take immediate action and eliminate the risks inherent in work areas.

They are those carried out in all companies, that is, they involve all sectors. In general, engineers, Occupational Safety technicians, doctors, social workers, and members of the officials participate in the verifications. General inspections should be repeated at regular intervals. 

General systematic inspection of the workplace, for example:

  • A daily inspection routine where forklift drivers inspect their vehicles at the start of each shift. 
  • A weekly inspection routine where supervisors check that forklifts are being driven safely. 
  • A monthly inspection routine in which the manager reviews the third-party inspection sticker of the forklift and operator. 
  • A semi-annual inspection of each forklift by a competent mechanic.
  • An annual formal inspection of training of all forklift operators.

Routine inspections

Routine inspections are those carried out frequently within the company. Thus, those responsible for the inspection will see if there are common problems or errors in activities, equipment, processes, work methods and environmental factors, for example:

Routine inspections allow for identifying defects in equipment, attitudes of officials in work situations, and the use of PPE, among others. In general, it is the most common type of inspection and must be compulsorily adopted in the day-to-day of all workers in the area of occupational health and safety. 

Periodic inspections

Periodic inspections are those carried out in certain periods, to detect unsafe conditions, which arise naturally from the wear of parts, use of tools, and depreciation of machines and equipment. 

It is important to note that some inspections are mandatory by law, such as those relating to dangerous equipment, such as lifting equipment, fire extinguishers and others.

Special inspections

It is the type of inspection that seeks to identify presumed risks, that is, that requires expert professionals to carry out measurements and tests on devices. Abnormal work situations that present a risk to health and safety may be detected.

In general, it is a more technical and detailed type of inspection, hence the need to use specialized equipment and devices. Examples of special inspections include the measurement of environmental noise, and the number of toxic particles suspended in the air, among others. 

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The best way to control each stage in the safety inspection process is through a checklist. By programming the inspection activities (general, routine, periodic, etc.), it is possible to inspect at the right time and thus identify the inconveniences that may represent risks to the health and safety of the worker. 


Typical subject headings that might be included in a generic inspection checklist:

  • Fire safety, including emergency escape routes, signs, and fire extinguishers.
  • Housekeeping – cleaning and general order.
  • Environmental issues: e.g. lighting, temperature, ventilation, noise.
  • Traffic routes: safety of vehicle and pedestrian routes.
  • Chemical safety: proper use and storage of hazardous substances.
  • Machinery safety: correct use of machine guards and interlocks.
  • Electrical safety: Safety of portable electrical appliances.
  • Healthcare facilities: suitability and condition. 

Safety sampling

This is the technique of monitoring conformance to a particular workplace standard by looking at a representative just test. If a large enough sample is collected, there is a high probability that the sample results reflect results for the workplace as a whole.

Active and reactive monitoring HSE
Active and reactive monitoring HSE

For example, if the legal standard in a project site is that all 100 scaffolding inspection tags must be inspected monthly by a scaffold supervisor, then there are several ways to monitor this standard: 

  1. Check scaffold inspector records to make sure every scaffold has been inspected.
  2. Check all 100 scaffolding structures directly by inspecting each one.
  3. Check a representative sample of 10 scaffolding structures randomly from various locations around the site. 

The number 3 method above example is safety sampling monitoring. It provides better evidence of compliance with the standard than simply reviewing scaffold inspector records. It is also much less time-consuming than checking all 100 scaffold structures directly.

Safety tour

A walk-through high-profile inspection of a workplace by a group or team, including managers. The group that makes the tour must include the person in charge of the area, possibly a worker or worker representative, a safety specialist, an occupational health specialist and perhaps an engineer. 

Ideally, the group would also include a senior manager (such as a senior managing director or operations manager). A safety tour typically looks at any health and safety issues that come up during the tour. It is often without restrictions and is not limited to looking at a limited and predetermined topic or problem. 

Active and reactive monitoring HSE
Active and reactive monitoring HSE

This is a high-profile, visible event where management has the opportunity to interact with workers and show their interest and commitment to the health and safety of workers.

Arrangements for Active Monitoring

The frequency of supervision: this is likely to be determined by both the type of inspection and the level of risk. For example, a general workplace inspection might take place in an office once a month, but once a week in a workshop setting to reflect the increased risk.

The frequency will also be affected by the practicalities of monitoring and availability of people. Safety walk-throughs involving senior management are often conducted monthly for this reason.

Assignment of responsibilities: those responsible for ensuring that active monitoring is carried out should be identified, as well as the people who will be in charge of carrying it out. An inspector must also be unbiased and objective in their approach, even when looking at an area with which they are very familiar.

The use of checklists: These are valuable tools to use during the active monitoring process.

Action plan: Action planning for problems found so that appropriate action is taken after active monitoring to resolve issues promptly. An inspection system that identifies a problem or issue but then fails to in the action being taken is faulty. There must be clear identification of the persons responsible for carrying out that action.

Reactive monitoring

Reactive monitoring is about measuring safety performance by reference to accidents, incidents, illnesses and other adverse events that have already occurred. Reactive monitoring often makes use of statistics such as accident rates. These are often called lagging indicators because they indicate the direction of past health and safety performance.

Active and reactive monitoring HSE
Active and reactive monitoring HSE

Regarding the statistical control of the accident rate, the detailed collection of accidents is a valuable source of information which serves to know the accident rate and its circumstances in a comparative way between sections, companies or productive sectors.

Accident investigation can be defined as the technique used for the in-depth analysis of an occupational accident that has occurred. All fatal, serious and minor accidents must be investigated, and even all accidents that are repeated frequently, that have a potential risk and cause harm to people or those that have unknown causes should be investigated.

Reactive monitoring uses incidents, health problems and other unwanted events and situations as indicators of health and safety performance to highlight areas of concern. By definition, this means “reacting” after things have gone wrong.

  1. From an individual event, such as an accident, hazardous occurrence, near miss, or ill health.
  2. From data collected from a large number of the same types of events.

The first method involves investigating, analyzing and recording the failures produced in the occupational risk prevention management system. The second method deals with the collection and use of statistics. Among these actions, we can find:

  • Analysis and investigation of accidents/incidents.
  • First aid.
  • Emergency plans.

What does reactive monitoring mean?

Reactive monitoring methods are often called lagging indicators. If the lagging indicators are moving in a positive direction, then the possibility of accidents has been reduced. Conversely, if the lagging indicators are moving in a negative direction, that is an indication that the possibility of accidents has increased.

For example, suppose the accident rate at a workplace declines from month to month over some time (due to various safety improvements introduced in the workplace). In that case, this indicator is moving in a positive direction. It shows that the possibility of accidents has been reduced in recent times. However, if there is an increase in the accident rate, this is a lagging indicator moving in a negative direction.

Lagging indicators give insight into how you have performed in the past. Data can be collected and reported on several different events, such as:

  • Accident
  • Dangerous occurrence.
  • Near miss.
  • Cases of ill health.
  • Complaints from the workforce.
  • The number and type of formal enforcement actions taken against the organization.
  • The number and value of civil claims for damages against the organization.

Lost time incident frequency rate calculation

A commonly used accident rate to measure an organization’s safety performance is the lost-time accident rate.

Frequency / Ratio: = Number of lost-time incidents during a specified period ×100,000 / Number of hours worked in the same period.


There were six lost time injuries in the past year at your site and a total of 2,500,000 hours worked. To calculate lost time frequency rate very simply.

Number of lost-time incidents during a specified period = 6

Number of hours worked in the same period (hours) = 2,500,000

(6 x 1,00,000) / 2,500,000

Lost time injury frequency rate = 2.4


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