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Looking closely at how you measure your organization’s safety performance is an important step toward improving it. However, finding the best way to measure safety performance can be difficult. Using leading and lagging indicators to measure safety performance can be an effective way to prevent workplace incidents. This process involves measuring both your bottom line safety results and how well your workplace is doing at accident and incident prevention. By controlling leading indicators, such as the amount of safety training you provide, you will control your lagging indicators, such as your injury rate.
Lagging indicators measure a company’s health and safety performance by tracking accident statistics. Examples include:
These metrics are used to evaluate the overall past effectiveness of your workplace health and safety program. The numbers tell you how many people got hurt and how badly.
The Pros and Cons
The downside to using only lagging indicators of safety performance is that lagging indicators don’t tell you how well your company is doing at preventing incidents and accidents. Lagging indicators only report on what has already happened – that is, they ‘lag’ behind reality.
For example, when an employer sees a low number of lost workdays they may believe that they do not have a safety issue. This false sense of security leads them to ignore the possibility that there are health and safety issues in the workplace that could contribute to a future increase in lost workdays.
Lagging indicators show when a desired safety outcome has failed, or when a health and safety objective has not been achieved. The learning comes from recognizing a past mistake, and results in the implementation of reactive rather than proactive measures.
Regardless, it is important to monitor lagging indicator data because evidence of increasing incidence of work injury and/or illness is a signal that improvements are needed in the workplace safety system. It’s worth noting however, that many workplaces have too few injuries to be able to distinguish real trends from random occurrences, and there is also the possibility that not all injuries are reported.
Leading indicators are proactive, preventative, and predictive measures to identify and eliminate risks and hazards in the workplace that can cause incidents and injuries. Examples include:
When using leading indicators, it’s important to make your metrics based on impact. For example, don’t just track the number and attendance of safety meetings and training sessions – measure the impact of the safety meeting by determining the number of people who met the key learning objectives of the meeting / training.
Why use leading indicators?
Leading indicators are focussed on future safety performance and continuous improvement. These measures are proactive in nature and report what employees and management are doing on a regular basis to prevent injuries. Leading indicators help identify and understand the factors affecting the risk of injury. Use of this information will help identify ways to prevent the occurrence of work injury and illness.
Leading indicators that are connected to specific occupational health and safety program goals introduce a real level of accountability for those goals. But beyond tracking progress towards achieving specific goals, leading indicators can also measure and monitor their relative importance of health and safety within the organization.
Leading indicators can work to complement the more traditional outcome-based measures of lagging indicators, and can be used to balance out some of their limitations.
Use lagging and leading indicators
Measurement is an important part of any management process and forms the basis for continuous improvement. Using lagging and leading indicators together will help provide a solid, bigger picture on what is and is not working in your occupational health and safety program. Therefore, you should plan to use a balance of predictive leading indicators as well as the more outcome-based lagging indicators. Every organization and workplace is unique, so it is important to look at which indicators will provide you with the best information.
For more information:
Leading Indicators for Workplace Health and Safety: a user guide (PDF), Work Safe Alberta
How to Put Leading Indicators into Practice, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (NIOSH/CDC)
Elevating EHS Leading Indicators: From Defining to Designing (PDF), Campbell Institute
Key Performance Indicators, European Agency for Safety and Health at Work
Developing leading Indicators of Work Injury and Illness (PDF), Institute for Work and Health (IWH)
A vacuum truck operator was in the process of unloading cold heavy crude when he noticed that the 6-inch rubber hose downstream of the blower was smoldering. The truck operator proceeded to discharge his fire extinguisher on the hose, and then turned off the blower and closed the truck and tank valves. Moments later there was a loud popping sound and the truck operator was engulfed in flames. While the operator was running away from the area the rear door on the vacuum truck blew off hitting the production tank and platform. The vacuum truck was completely destroyed and the production platform was damaged. The operator, who was wearing fire retardant coveralls and a 4-head gas monitor, suffered third degree burns requiring a skin graft.
Enform issued a Safety Alert that examined the causes of the explosion and provided some important actions to minimize the danger when working with vacuum trucks containing hydrocarbons.
What Caused It?
The blower and associated rubber hose overheated and this action ignited the residual hydrocarbons in the blower’s associated hose and piping.
Contributing Factors Included:
Read the Safety Alert from Enform, PDF
Flammable & Combustible Liquids – Hazards fact sheet, CCOHS
Tips & Tools
10 tips to help make your health and safety committee meetings better
The joint health and safety committee plays an integral role in working with the employer to help create and maintain a safe workplace. The success of any committee depends partly on how well the committee meetings are organized and conducted. Here are 10 tips to help make your health and safety committee meetings effective:
Resources to help you make your meetings more effective:
Health and Safety Committees fact sheets, CCOHS
Joint Occupational Health & Safety Committee Workbook [PDF], WorkSafeBC
Health and Safety Committees e-course, CCOHS
Learning by Committee: Effective Committees webinar, CCOHS
Ontario first responders will now be able to access Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) benefits and timely mental health treatment for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) more easily. First responders are twice as likely to suffer from PTSD, according to an Ontario Ministry of Labour release.
On April 5 the province of Ontario amended workers’ compensation legislation assuming PTSD as a workplace injury.
The new Supporting Ontario’s First Responders Act (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder/PTSD), 2016 amends the Workplace Safety and Insurance Act, 1997 (WSIA) and the Ministry of Labour Act to create a presumption that PTSD diagnosed in first responders is work-related.
Police officers, paramedics, firefighters, emergency dispatchers, correctional workers and First Nations emergency response teams are included under the legislation. Workers covered by the presumptive legislation are entitled to benefits under the WSIA if they are diagnosed with PTSD by a psychiatrist or psychologist.
By removing the need to prove a connection between PTSD and a workplace event, the new legislation aims to provide faster access to WSIB benefits and mental-health treatment expediting the claims process for first responders diagnosed with PTSD. Additionally, employers are required to implement PTSD prevention plans within the workplace.
This legislation applies to more than 73,000 first responders in Ontario but does not include nurses, special constables, bailiffs and parole officers.
The Workers Compensation Board of Manitoba was the first in Canada to include PTSD as an occupational disease, which took effect January 1, 2016. This bill extends coverage and benefits to all workers, not limited to first responders, who are eligible for workers compensation in Manitoba and whom a medical professional diagnoses with PTSD.
Alberta has also amended their workers’ compensation legislation to presume that PTSD is a workplace injury among first responders, removing the onus on emergency workers to prove a connection between their diagnosis and their job. New Brunswick recently introduced a similar bill in its legislature.
Existing compensation legislation in several other provinces requires people applying for insurance benefits, including first responders, to prove their PTSD diagnosis was caused by their job.
The official news release is available on the Ontario Ministry of Labour website.
Health and Safety To Go
This month’s Health and Safety To Go! podcasts feature an interview with Amber Huiser from Threads of Life, discussing her story of recovery from a workplace injury and an encore featuring ways you can help keep young workers safe this summer.
Feature Podcast: Injured on the Job: Amber Hiuser's Road to Recovery
Threads of Life speaker Amber Hiuser sat down with the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS) to share her personal story of recovery from being injured on the job as a young worker.
The podcast runs 4:33 minutes.
Encore Podcast: Summer Job Safety
Learn how you can help keep young workers safe this summer.
The podcast runs 3:37 minutes.
CCOHS produces free monthly podcasts on a wide variety of topics designed to keep you current with information, tips, and insights into the health, safety, and well-being of working Canadians. You can download the audio segment to your computer or MP3 player and listen to it at your own convenience... or on the go!
Dim the lights and celebrate NAOSH Week at your organization by holding a Youth Video Contest Film Fest of the winning entries of the Focus on Safety Youth Video Contest from all over Canada.
Every year, for one week, health and safety takes centre stage. North American Occupational Safety and Health (NAOSH) Week, May 1-7, is a great time to bring family and coworkers together to participate in events that promote the prevention of injury and illness in the workplace, home and community.
About the Focus on Safety Youth Video Contest
This annual contest invites youth from across Canada to create an original video that illustrates the importance of workplace health and safety. The top video from each participating province and territory moves onto the National Youth Video Contest, where a judging panel selects the first, second and third place winners. The public also get their say by voting online for their Fan Favourite.
Here’s how to do it:
Ideas and tips for a successful Film Fest
Materials and information ,CCOHS
For more ideas and information about NAOSH Week, visit the website.
Tell us what you think.
We welcome your feedback and story ideas.
Connect with us.
The Health and Safety Report, a free monthly newsletter produced by the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS), provides information, advice, and resources that help support a safe and healthy work environment and the total well being of workers.
© 2020, Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety
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