The most common key performance indicators of occupational health and safety, Leading and lagging indicators in safety (KPIs) are measurable values used by Occupational Health and Safety professionals to track deficiency, determine progress in achieving goals and identify risks that have not been evaluated and addressed. The most common key performance indicators are a useful way to monitor the performance, ahead or behind, of the management of Safety and Health at Work.
We find different Leading and lagging indicators in safety and Health at Work. Some are more important than others, but all must meet minimum characteristics. We explain the difference between leading and lagging indicators of safety performance and how you identify leading and lagging indicators and what leading and lagging KPIs are.
Most common key performance indicators of safety performance
The first great division that we find in the KPIs of Safety and Health at Work is that of leading indicators (Proactive Indicators) and lagging indicators (Reactive Indicators).
The success of Occupational Health and Safety management will depend on the correct definition of the objectives, what is to be achieved, and the choice of the appropriate indicator to know if the correct path has been taken or if it is necessary to make some corrections. In that sense, some indicators are more important than others.
Leading indicators show us valuable information to make decisions for the future. They are useful data to prevent risks, correct situations and solve problems before they have a negative impact. Lagging indicators (injuries, absenteeism, etc.) only give the organization an idea of the past. They do not say whether safety is improving.
Like other areas of the organization, Occupational Health and Safety also needs to monitor key performance, which provides critical information for management. Leading or Lagging, KPIs are beneficial for Occupational Health and Safety professionals. Both indicators must meet the following characteristics:
- Specific: There should be no question about what is being measured.
- Measurable: that can be quantified and compared.
- Achievable: Indicators point to the achievement of realistic goals.
- Relevant: both the objective and the information offered by the KPI must be important for management.
- Tim bound: it is necessary to establish a time in which the information provided by the indicator is useful for management.
Leading and lagging key performance indicators
Key performance indicators (KPIs) are an evidence-based method of evaluating the strengths and weaknesses of the safety program. Safety teams use safety reports to ensure that they capture as much information as possible about safety-related events and compile it in a readable format that indicates the safety performance.
You can and should choose KPIs that are directly related to the structure, strengths, and weaknesses of your safety program. Each program will have a mix of KPIs from the two main groups:
- Leading Indicators
- Lagging indicators
Both groups of KPIs have merit, and chances are good that you are already familiar with some of the metrics in each group. But the big focus of your safety reporting program should be on the leading indicators. Lagging indicators (recordable injury case rates, absenteeism rates, and others).
Leading indicators for safety
Leading indicators are indicators oriented to future events, they seek to anticipate the direction of the organization and its effects. Some examples are:
- A number of international certifications were obtained.
- Frequency of inspections completed.
- A number of improvements to new safety control were implemented.
- The application rate of incident investigation.
- Analysis of risks.
- Employee safety perception surveys.
As a safety professional, you will have heard a lot from other people in the industry. They have reduced their recordable incident rate to virtually nothing or even brought their lost time incident rate (LTIR) to zero.
How do they do that? They will likely do it with leading indicators.
Leading indicators are measurement tools that give you the power and data you need to shore up safety program weaknesses and achieve your data-driven goals. Leading indicators allow you to focus on the present so you can better control the future. What can you use as leading or lagging indicators?
For too long, safety professionals have focused too much on lagging, backwards-looking indicators. Lagging indicators help you measure what has happened over time and allow you to determine if you have achieved your goals. They measure proactive, preventive and predictive actions, enabling organizations to continuously improve safety.
Ultimately, choosing your leading indicators takes place during the planning phase of the Plan Do Check Act (PDCA). They set the agenda for success and provide you with a better method of “planning and checking” as you work your way through the model.
First of all, you must determine the measures you want to adopt in prevention, indicating those responsible for carrying them out, and the deadlines by which they must be implemented. To do this, it is necessary to previously set preventive objectives and establish a pertinent management policy.
Once the implementation of the plan has taken shape, the processes must be monitored to verify the achievement of objectives, detect possible failures, and check the points where preventive measures must be reinforced. In turn, corrective actions must be adopted.
If you have a slip and fall problem, you can design leading indicators that address the root causes of slips and falls in your workplace. If you work at height and it is your main risk, you can use leading indicators of working at height to manage the risks.
Examples of leading indicators
You already understand the leading indicator. Any data that allows you to control the future while working in the present can be a leading indicator. This post is not the first place you hear about leading indicators. The concept has become so popular that it is present throughout the safety spectrum.
So-called “leading indicators”, which by their very nature can be considered predictive of some performance. For example, if during inspections you observe many observations with operating processes or equipment, but you see that they are being fixed correctly and on time, you can better hope not to have losses associated with those processes or equipment.
Examples are, among others, these could include:
- Number of audits or inspections carried out,
- Number and type of findings or nonconformities,
- Time required for incident investigation
- Training completed, number of individuals and type,
- Preventive maintenance tasks carried out promptly,
- Safety committee meetings,
- Management engagement and employee commitment
- Safety observations (including safe and unsafe acts, conditions, and behaviours)
- Preventive maintenance actions
- Compliance risk assessment or job safety analysis, permit to work system etc.
- Hazard identification
You can choose the leading indicators that best suit your organization, the types of work and, above all, your company’s safety plan. Leading indicators to accurately monitor safety performance and reduce future incidents.
Safety education and safety training
The benefits of training are relatively obvious. You don’t know what your team doesn’t know. So it’s always in your best interest to share your safety knowledge. But there is also the value of training, and there is a strong positive culture between successful training programs and workplace injury prevention.
Since every company must provide some type of training, it is a good starting point for a safety culture. Gaps in training programs can increase the likelihood of an accident occurring, as employees may not yet know what they need to do to be safe on the job or the specific task they are performing.
Monitoring observation reporting and recording
The number of reported observations of unsafe (acts and conditions) can be used as a leading indicator because observations can reveal workplace hazards that may lead to incident risks. These risks can be mitigated to improve safety.
Observations are high, incidents are low: Observations can successfully identify hazards, which are being successfully addressed to reduce the risks of incidents. Observations are high, incidents are high: Incidents are high to identify hazards but no implementation of control measures.
Observations are low, incidents are low: The low number of observations may mean that safety performance has improved so much that there are fewer new risks to identify. Low incident rates also reflect improved safety performance. Safety observation analysis depends on the:
- Frequency of safety observation
- Type of safety deficiency
- Relationship between positive and negative observations
Near Miss Report from HSE
Near misses are an opportunity for organizational learning and for reinforcing safety and health management systems. They should be investigated as an actual loss report. After all, the fact that someone was not injured or there was no material damage does not mean that there was no cost. Most common key performance
Near misses are very useful leading indicators for risk prevention and mitigation. However, a high number of them, and the seriousness of what “could have happened”, would indicate that the organization has a long way to go to take corrective actions and prevent potential accidents.
For example, if a product spills, someone has to clean it up. So you need to spend money to free a worker to clean the spillages, which is some loss. The cleaner also spends time cleaning rather than on some other productive task, which is also a loss.
Safety inspection and audit reports
Inspections and audits are compliance tools, but they provide a unique insight into your safety and health management systems. You can start by tracking the frequency of your inspections and audits, then set goals to increase or manage to achieve them.
Corrective and preventive actions of
Your safety officer identifies a high-potential observation in the field. What happens next? Hazards and corrective/preventive actions are a goldmine for safety reporting because they tell you what’s happening at the site.
Unrectified hazards or slow corrective actions are accidents waiting to happen. The number of corrective actions indicates that the organization, Senior Management and the safety professionals in charge of the system are committed to the objectives of Safety and Health at Work. Of course, the indicator also reports on the success of the implemented actions and those that did not show the expected result.
Lagging indicators safety
Lagging indicators are the statistical indicators that express in figures the characteristics of a company’s accident rate, detailing its various areas, sections or site. These statistics provide useful values to compare one’s performance with that of other competing companies within the same organization.
We use lagging indicators to show trends over time and to illustrate accidents and their costs. These indices include, for example, the “Frequency Index” (how many times events occur in a certain period), the “Severity Index” (what were the consequences of these events), and the “Incidence Index” (how they affect the productivity of the company).
Many accept the importance of leading indicators over lagging indicators. But be careful not to discard lagging indicators. First, some regulations require organizations to report incident rates and other lagging metrics. Second, lagging indicators help measure results to see if the activities measured by the leading indicators are effective.
The comparison of the number of observations of unsafe acts and conditions or incident rates is a good example of the correlation between leading and lagging indicators. By comparing the number of observations and incident rates over time, you can get a good idea of whether the observations provide valuable information about hazards.
For example, if the number of observations has been high since January, incident rates may start to decrease only from April onwards, as it may take time to fully implement control measures.
Lagging indicators are indicators of compliance, they help us to know if the regulations or provisions established by the organization are being applied.
- Severity and frequency of injuries.
- Frequency and trend of near misses.
- Fatalities and other accidents.
- Lost work day.
- A number of observations were made by the field safety officers.
- Employee compensation claims
Examples of lagging indicators safety
The number of OSHA recordable incidents, and incident rates, including Total Recordable Incident Rate (TRIR), Days Away, Restricted or Transferred Rate (DART), and Lost Time Incident Rates (LTIR); are all examples of lagging indicators.
While lagging indicators need to be tracked, unfortunately, they provide little direction or insight into the behaviours and conditions that precede incidents. That’s why they shouldn’t be the only metrics you look at. Lagging indicators are most useful when reviewed alongside leading indicators.
Our best indicators, including TRIR, DART, and LTIR rates, will save you valuable time and effort monitoring safety performance metrics.
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- Safety of work at height
- Health and safety training
- Welding safety precautions
- Electrical safety hazards
Some examples of lagging indicators are:
- Injury frequency and severity
- OSHA recordable injuries
- Lost workdays
- Worker’s compensation costs
Total Recordable Incident Rate Definition
Total Recordable Incident Rate, or TRIR, is a tracking indicator that provides insight into the effectiveness of a company’s safety programs and practices. Also known as the Total Case Incident Rate (TCIR) or OSHA incident rate, the TRIR rate compares injuries and illnesses across different industries and organizations.
TRIR Formula Most common key performance indicators
Note: 200000 is used for the total number of hours 100 employees (100 workers * 40 hours * 50 weeks = 200000
TRIR = Number of OSHA Recordable Injuries and Illnesses X 200,000 / Employee Hours Worked
Lost Time Incident Rate Calculation
Before we get into what LTIR is, let’s clarify what wasted time is. First of all, there is no such thing as “lost time.” The correct OSHA term is “lost workday case.”
OSHA does not use the term “lost time cases”. Most common key performance indicator
To calculate LTIR:
The number of LTIs within the reporting period x 200,000 / the total number of hours worked during the reporting period time by all employees
Example of LTIR calculation
For example, if an employer has: 4 LTIs throughout a year, 150 employees who work 140 hours a month, (140 * 12 = 1680 * 150 = a total of 25200 hours worked in the last year)
The formula will be: 4 x 200,000 / 252000 = an LTIR of 3.17 lost time incidents per 100 employees just over 3.17 experienced recordable injuries.
Days Absent, Restricted, or Transferred Rate (DART)
Days Absent, Restricted, or Transferred Rate (DART) is designed to track any OSHA-recordable work-related injury or illness that results in time away from work, restricted job functions, or the permanent transfer of an employee to a new position. OSHA uses the DART rate to monitor high-risk industries and also allows EHS managers to measure the business impact of recordable incidents over time.
To DART calculate:
To break down this formula, employers multiply the number of incidents that caused an employee to stop working at their normal capacity by 200,000. These 200,000 represent 100 employees who work 40 hours a week for 50 weeks during a calendar year. This number is then divided by the total number of hours a company’s employees worked.
(Number of OSHA-recordable injuries and illnesses that resulted in Days Absent; Restricted; Transferred X 200,000) / Employee Hours Worked = Restricted Days Absence Rate Transferred (DART).
For example, suppose a company had lost time incidents that occurred during a year. If the organization has about 1,000 employees who work 40 hours a week, this number may not be consequential or indicative of a larger problem. However, if a smaller business that only employs 10 or 15 people reports the same number of incidents, OSHA may be concerned that the business is not following proper health and safety procedures.
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