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August 23, 2019
OSHA issues guide to leading indicators

Managing workplace safety can be frustrating if you have to play catch-up with accidents, injuries, and illnesses that have already happened. The number and rate of injuries and illnesses in your facility are lagging indicators.

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The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recently issued guidance for employers that want to get ahead of safety and health in their facilities. Using Leading Indicators to Improve Safety and Health Outcomes is a 17-page guide for those who want to prevent workplace injuries and illnesses and reduce the cost associated with safety and health incidents.

Examples of leading indicators might include the percentage of workers who show up for refresher safety training, tracking brake replacement on industrial trucks, or how long it takes for lift teams to arrive.

Indicators to boost your safety program

The agency recommends tracking indicators to bolster the core elements of an effective safety and health management program. OSHA lists management leadership; worker participation; hazard identification and assessment; hazard prevention and control; education and training; program evaluation; and communication and coordination among host employers, contractors, and staffing agencies as core elements in its Recommended Practices for Safety and Health Programs.

Leading indicators for management leadership include:

  • Percentage of managers and supervisors who attend mandatory safety and health training for workers;
  • Number of worker-reported hazards or concerns for which employers initiated corrective action within 48 hours; and
  • Average time between worker report of a hazard or concern and management acknowledgment of the report.

Leading indicators for worker participation include:

  • Number of workers involved in developing safety procedures;
  • Number of workers participating in tool box talks; and
  • Number of workers involved in developing job hazard analyses for routine tasks.

Leading indicators for hazard identification and assessment include:

  • Frequency of preventive equipment maintenance tasks initiated and completed on schedule;
  • Percentage of incident investigations that include a root cause analysis; and
  • Percentage of daily/weekly/monthly workplace safety inspections completed.

Leading indicators of hazard prevention and control include:

  • Percentage of recommendations implemented that pertain to elimination, substitution, engineering controls, administrative controls, and personal protective equipment (PPE);
  • Percentage of hazards abated on the same day, week, or month in which the hazard was identified; and
  • Length of time interim controls have been in place.

Leading indicators for education and training include:

  • Worker attendance rates at trainings when compared with the number of trainings offered;
  • Percentage of incident investigations showing an insufficient number of workers trained on how to recognize and report a hazard; and
  • Percentage of the improvement in posttraining test scores over pretraining assessment scores.

Leading indicators of communication and coordination include:

  • Frequency of discussions between the staffing agency or contractor and the host employer that address efforts to ensure workers have a safe and healthy work environment at the host site;
  • Frequency of safety discussions between contract workers and host site supervisors; and
  • Number of audits conducted to ensure contractors are following site safety and health policies.

Action plan

An action plan for using leading indicators would include the following steps:

  • Identify your top problem areas—the hazards with the greatest risk of harming employees;
  • Talk with your workers about their safety concerns and what areas you could improve;
  • Consider what actions you could take to address your top problem areas or workers’ top concerns;
  • Set a goal and choose an indicator to help you achieve your goal;
  • Begin collecting leading indicator data;
  • Periodically review your results to determine whether the actions and indicator you chose are helping you reach your goal; and
  • Remember that tracking just one or two indicators can have a positive effect.

Using Leading Indicators to Improve Safety and Health Outcomes is available for download at

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