Why your health and safety dashboard should include both lagging and leading indicators

Monday, November 04, 2013

Take a trip with WSN Consultant-Trainer Dan Suess as he reveals tips for your best workplace health and safety dashboard

It’s the start of a vacation and your long awaited trip is about to get underway. Have we got all the gear? Have we missed anything? A quick double-check: everything and everyone all packed into the vehicle? And, off you go. Conversations centres on your destination and all the great things that lie in store: activities, weather, food, and of course, the adventure. Time passes and your journey continues onwards. 

Vehicle dashboard

As you anticipate your arrival, you automatically glance down at the vehicle instruments a number of times over your journey: speed okay; gas okay; temperature okay; warning lights clear; GPS shows we are on route. You breathe a sigh of relief. The last thing you need is an unexpected glitch. The dashboard is a group of indicators that assist you in monitoring your vehicle’s performance. 

Similarly, the health and safety “vehicle” or processes at your workplace can benefit from such dashboard indicators. Many workplaces already use traditional measurements such as lost-time injuries, first aids, incidents, and cost of losses. These are known as “lagging indicators” in that they represent after-the-fact information. Much like the odometer on your dash, they tell you the distance you have already travelled. 

On a road trip, you would likely want to equip yourself with information that could provide proactive information – indicators of potential issues, that when observed, can be corrected before they result in an interruption: inspect tires, gather travel route advisory information, obtain weather forecasts, and even a last once-over before you hit the road. The various data collected from these activities are known as “leading indicators.”

Here are some leading indicators used by organizations that recognize their value on the occupational health and safety dashboard: 

  • Number of inspections, assessments, observations, audits, as well as number completed vs. plan
  • Supervisors’ face time on the floor vs. planned
  • Number of safety contacts or interactions made by managers and supervisors
  • Safety meetings and training – conducted vs. planned
  • Implementation of action plans as a result of audit findings
  • Number of near-misses reported
  • Percentage of incidents, reports investigated
  • Percentage of Job Safety Analysis completed for critical activities
  • Percentage of corrective actions remediated on time

Can you spot the difference in the type and value of information in the two types of indicators? What would you like to see on your organization’s health and safety dashboard?

Your dashboard indicators create a snapshot of the activity you measure. Many snapshots can indicate trends, and measuring provides information that will direct you to the best route to achieve your desired results. 

According to business performance expert, Aubrey Daniels, Ph.D. leading indicators should:

  • Allow you to see small improvements in performance
  • Measure the positive: what people are doing versus failing to do
  • Enable frequent feedback to all stakeholders
  • Be credible to performers
  • Be predictive
  • Increase constructive problem-solving around safety
  • Make it clear what needs to be done to get better
  • Track impact versus intention

As you continue on your health and safety journey, consider what you wish to measure, and why. Determine if it will effectively get you where you need to be…In the words of Workplace Safety North: “Every worker home, safe and healthy.”

In the continuation of your health and safety journey, stop and take stock. Have you got all the gear? Have you missed anything? Regardless of business size, WSN is here to assist and can guide you in the development or improvement of your health and safety dashboard and more.

With more than 30 years of health and safety experience in the industrial, construction and petrochemical sectors, Dan Suess offers a well‐rounded and practical approach to health and safety consulting and training. Dan is a member of the Canadian Society of Safety Engineering, and in 2008, completed Canadian Standards Association courses for OHSAS 18001 Internal Auditor and OHSAS 18001:2007 Lead Auditor training programs. You can reach Dan at dansuess@workplacesafetynorth.ca.

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