Leading indicator tool shows promise at predicting injury rates

Friday, November 16, 2012

Imagine a tool so simple that, by answering eight questions about your occupational health and safety (OHS) policies and practices, it predicts your organization’s work injury experience in the years ahead. Moreover, it also points to where you need to focus your health and safety efforts to change things for the better.

Such a tool is closer than you think. The Institute for Work & Health (IWH) is currently testing the strength of an eight-item questionnaire jointly developed by Ontario’s health and safety system partners in 2008.

The tool holds promise. During its pilot, the questionnaire was administered by consultants from Ontario’s health and safety associations (HSAs), including Workplace Safety North, to over 640 workplaces. Respondents were asked to assess the degree to which their organization adhered to OHS policies and practices. Their answers were scored and matched to their organization’s injury claim rates over the previous three-plus years. (A full report on the pilot’s outcomes is available here)

Now IWH researchers want to fine-tune and strengthen the tool to determine its ability to predict future performance. The eight questions are being administered again by HSA consultants to the same organizations that took part in the pilot. This will help answer a number of questions: Does the tool, indeed, predict future claim rates? If an organization’s claim rates change considerably over time, do the answers to the eight questions reflect that change? Does it matter how the information is collected—over the phone or via the internet? What are OHS professionals thinking when they answer the questions?

Leading indicator tool can address deficiencies before injuries occur

When finalized, the tool will contribute to the health and safety system’s search for leading indicators. Traditionally, OHS performance is assessed based on trailing indicators; i.e. on rates that measure injuries and illnesses that have already occurred. Leading indicators, on the other hand, provide a sense of an organization’s performance based on its potential for injuries and illnesses; i.e. before these injuries and illnesses occur.

“Ultimately, the tool could identify very tangible things that organizations can work on to improve occupational health and safety performance and prevent injuries and illness,” says IWH Scientist Dr. Ben Amick, who is leading the current study

Organizations that took part in the pilot test of the tool can expect to hear from their Workplace Safety North] consultant in the near future, asking them to take part again in a five-minute survey. For more information on the study, contact IWH Project Coordinator Karen Turner at kturner@iwh.on.ca.