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October 02, 2013
Use leading indicators as a tool to prevent injuries

Metrics like OSHA recordable injuries and workers’ comp expenses—known as trailing or lagging indicators—tell you what happened and how much it cost. But they don’t indicate how well you’re doing at preventing accidents.

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A new white paper tells safety professionals how they can use leading indicators, such as safety audits and safety perception surveys, to improve performance at their worksite. Keep reading to learn more.

The document was produced by the National Safety Council’s (NSC) new Campbell Institute for excellence in environmental, health, and safety management.  It defines leading indicators as “proactive, preventative, and predictive measures that monitor and provide current information about the effective performance, activities, and processes of an EHS management system.” These in turn drive the control or elimination of risks that cause injuries.

Examples of leading indicators are new control measures, safety training, incident investigations, behavioral observations, and job safety analyses.

According to the Campbell Institute, many safety and health professionals continue to rely on injury rates, absenteeism, and other trailing indicators “despite a growing acceptance of the fact that these failure-based measures are ineffective in driving improvement efforts.” 

Those that do use leading indicators as a tool find they can help prevent or eliminate risks, monitor performance, motivate safety behavior, and communicate results to management and workers. Some businesses even consider leading indicators in performance assessment and compensation for EHS mangers.

Do these things to make best use of leading indicators

The white paper identifies factors that contribute to successful use of leading indicators, including:

  • Executive buy-in regarding the value of leading indicators,
  • Communication about the predictive value of leading indicators by safety and corporate leaders,
  • Technology to track leading indicators,
  • A proactive safety mindset, and
  • Linking leading indicators to incentives.

You can download the white paper from the Campbell Institute website, http://www.thecampbellinstitute.org.  Click on the “research” tab.

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