OSHA Is Looking At Leading Indicators

The U.S. Department of Labor is inviting interested parties to attend a discussion on leading indicators for occupational safety and health programs. The meeting will be held on November 7, 2019, in Washington, D.C.

Leading indicators track how well aspects of your health and safety program are performing. The November discussion will focus on the use of leading indicators, how they are chosen, what they track, whether they are effective, if there is commonality across an industry, and any challenges encountered using such indicators.

Leading indicators are proactive gages for your program in order to monitor activities that prevent an injury, illness, or exposure. Lagging indicators are events that happened in the past that indicate a ‘failure’ and are reactive instead of proactive. While many companies are more familiar with lagging indicators, we encourage focusing on leading indicators instead. Lagging indicators include for example, an employee injury, and often a focus on the number of man-hours worked without an injury and/or basing a percentage of employee bonuses on not experiencing a recordable incident.

The danger as you know is that employees go to great lengths to hide an injury, not wanting to be ‘the one’ causing others to lose out. This danger is a well-known and well-discussed concern, and yet many companies continue such a focus. In fact, while at two different companies recently we overheard employees expressing concern about losing their bonus!

Instead, focus on leading indicators such as,

  • Percentage of employees completing safety training,
  • Number of near miss incidents or hazard identifications reported
  • Employee participation on the safety committee
  • Managers completing safety forms on time
  • Number of department safety walkthroughs and corrective actions completed

OSHA summarizes leading indicators as those,

  1. Using data already collected to achieve a safety or health goal.
  2. Controlling an identified hazard.
  3. Improving a safety and health program element.

To register for the meeting click here and here for a Guide on leading indicators.

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