Safety management can get overwhelming pretty quickly. It’s natural to look for the next new idea, theory, or fad to help get your program back on track. But in reality, going back to the basics is a far more effective strategy. The key to success lies not in more rules and complexity, but in re-focusing safety, programs to be simpler, more inclusive, more engaging, and more sustainable.
Most organizations measure safety success by the absence of failure, or more accurately, the absence of accidents. Essentially, success happens when nothing happens. But just because we aren’t having accidents doesn’t mean we’re safe. It’s akin to assessing the safety of your driving only after you’ve arrived at your destination. Does the fact that you didn’t crash mean you were safe on the road? A key issue plaguing organizations is that they place far too much emphasis on injury rates as the absolute gauge of safety performance. But that approach is inherently flawed. If your business tells its employees, by what it measures and how it reacts, that accidents must be avoided at all costs, then that’s exactly what it will get – no accidents. You’ll post months of incident-free performance all while latent risk resides within your processes- waiting for the right moment to strike. Problems swept under the rug only serve to create a false sense of security.
Organizations looking to improve safety management must start by rethinking how they define safety success, and those businesses need to shift from focusing squarely on avoiding incidents to instead focusing on how to build capacity to manage the risks that contribute to incidents. Incident rates are lagging indicators; they’re backward-looking measures that aren’t directly influenceable. Leading indicators, on the other hand, are measures we can control and directly affect our lagging metrics. By selecting the right leading indicators to measure our organizational capacity to manage risk and the strength of our defences –we’re more able to directly affect the things that allow incidents to occur, and our incident rates to rise. In this sense, employers should start by selecting the right leading indicators. What issues contribute to your incidents that you need to focus on proactively?
That might include:
- % of safety training completed
- # of safety observations conducted
- # of equipment inspections completed
- # of Days to close corrective actions
There is nothing wrong with tracking incident rates, as long as we acknowledge that we can’t address them directly. By selecting the right leading indicators to measure, we can act early to address risk before it can contribute to incidents later on. But beyond what measures you track; you also need to consider how to make their collection and calculation as efficient as possible.
This is where technology helps. Businesses can drastically simplify their ability to collect and monitor critical leading and lagging indicators by adopting an EHS software solution. These platforms offer users the ability to easily capture key metrics via desktop or mobile applications. By integrating these solutions with HRIS platforms, working hours can be seamlessly imported into the solution to calculate incident rates instantaneously, reducing administrative time and effort to crunch numbers. By monitoring metrics in real-time, organizational leaders will be better able to align priorities and resources to the operational issues that are contributing to poor safety performance. More importantly, the ability to track key leading indicators on visual dashboards also helps the business detect signs of operational “drift” – where performance starts to move in the wrong direction – allowing leaders to respond to warning signs early before they can contribute to incidents.
Simplifying safety management requires your organization to be open to new ways of thinking. But instead of trying to find the “next best thing” to resolve all your safety program challenges, it’s best to start by refocusing on the basics. Developments in EHS technology are making it easier to reimagine a better way to manage safety, making for a more data-driven, engaging, and effective way to keep your people safe and your business growing.
We’ve outlined 8 simple yet effective strategies to remove complexity and uncertainty from your safety program and drive sustainable safety results in our latest eBook, ‘Back to Basics: How to simplify your safety program to achieve real results’.