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  • Faith Boren

Focus on Leading Indicators

To move your safety culture from reactive to proactive, it is important to focus on leading indicators instead of lagging indicators. Lagging indicators commonly used to measure safety performance include the “loss runs” list of claims expenses for a past given period, ex. auto claims for the past five years. Another is the loss ratio, or percentage of premium paid vs losses paid by the insurance carrier. A loss ratio of 50% or greater setting an alarm for risk improvement needed for most insurance carriers.

Those numbers are important and should be considered as you are evaluating your safety program results. However, a better focus, to take your business to a more proactive safety mindset requires evaluating and measuring your consistent use and completion of leading indicators which include:

1. Training - Safety training, that is education regarding the hazards and controls needed to complete the work, should be provided to workers in every phase of the operations. New hires should be provided safety orientation even if they have prior similar work experience. The hazards, policies and expectations of your specific workplace must be communicated. Existing workers should also receive regular ongoing refreshers. This is especially necessary if the equipment or worksite changes. There are other specific training requirements as required by OSHA. For example, forklift training must be provided at least every three years. Retraining should also be provided if/when employees demonstrate lack of knowledge or an unsafe work behavior before it becomes an unsafe habit. Maintaining records of training provided to workers is imperative as you may be asked to prove at some point that you provided the essential training. Furthermore, tracking the training helps you ensure it is done consistently.

2. Assessments and Audits – Regular audits with observation and evaluation of workers’ habits and procedures is recommended to ensure that they are not only doing the work, but they are doing it safely! As a best practice, the audits should vary in time of day, day of week, month etc. in order that they do not become too routine and lose their effectiveness. Where possible, they should also be completed by a variety of persons to keep perspectives fresh. They may be completed by safety committee members, in-house supervisors, other department managers and third-party consultants. Assessments are post-training to test the workers understanding is important to help you determine if the understood the material if the training should be updated or where retraining is needed. Both assessments and audits are tools to provide a steady stream of feedback to your workforce both positive encouragement and constructive criticism if needed. Reviewing results of assessments and audits over time also highlights areas of decline or (hopefully) progress with your safety program efforts.

3. Near Hit Reports – Employees should be encouraged to identify and report incidents where they almost suffered an injury and/or property was nearly damaged. Once identified, the hazard that led to the “near hit” almost incident, should be corrected immediately or as soon as possible. Next, a communication should be provided to your other employees explaining what occurred and how the hazard(s) has been corrected. The goal of the message should be to raise awareness about the unsafe condition or unsafe act and to reduce the potential for a similar reoccurrence. The communication should be shared company-wide or at least to any worker who may encounter similar situation or set of circumstances in the future, for example – those who work in the same building or do the same operations. Near hits are like warning bells. Investigating the reason for them, and taking steps to correct their causes, in a timely manner will reduce your potential for future incidents.

4. Communication – Information regarding safety should be communicated to employees on an ongoing very regular basis. Communication can be accomplished orally in safety tailgate type meetings and in writing in a newsletter or email. The more workers hear about safety from you, the more they will understand the great importance you place on safety as a company. Furthermore, their own awareness of hazards and safety knowledge will increase resulting in a safer working environment at your business.

5. Resources – Investments in safety can include required items, such as personal protective equipment and costs for driver MVR screening & nice-to-haves like dash-cameras in company vehicles. As the saying goes, follow the money! How much time or money are you allocating for safety? How much did you spend on it last year or the year before? Determining how much you are spending on safety and the safety culture you have versus the safety culture you want is an important evaluation.

6. Perception Surveys – When was the last time you asked your employees for their input on your safety program? Asking your employees what they see that is good/bad or ugly is a quick way to learn what is working and what needs to be addressed. Not only will you get valuable information quickly, but you will also be engaging your entire enterprise, persons at every level of your organization in the process of evaluating and improving your safety culture. Surveys should be as short as possible. Even two or three questions can source you good information if they are open ended questions. Allowing the participants to remain anonymous (i.e., name optional) and by providing a small incentive, for example – entry into a drawing for a bigger prize, are both effective tools to get maximum participation.

“If you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it.” – Peter Drucker As the famous quote implies, what we measure, we can improve and what we don't won't. This is true with everything from weight loss goals to golf game scores to even safety results! Obviously not everything can be improved at once but prioritizing and measuring any of these six key leading indicators at your business will absolutely enhance your team’s awareness of hazards and the safety needed. Placing these targets at the forefront will encourage your employees to choose safe behaviors moving your company to an improved, safety conscious direction.

Would you like help implementing leading indicators at your company? Please feel welcome to contact me anytime by email , phone call or text 936-252-0443.

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