What is the best measure of safety performance? Is it the traditional recordable rate, severity rate, cost of accidents, near miss numbers, physical audit scores, behavioral observation percent safe, r perception surveys??? The best answer may be "D. All of the above."
Companies in America have used the same metrics for years to measure their financialperformance. They measure their performance largely through lagging indicators. These metrics are accurate indicators of how the company is performing, but they are not especially useful to help managers make the company perform better. The metrics originated in the early days of the industrial revolution in capitalist countries. The goal was to measure the use of capital and the return on investment. In short, it was accountability metric, not a management metric.
If any of this sounds familiar to safety professionals, it is no coincidence. Safety is also measured by lagging indicators which are ok for accountability but not especially useful for improvement. ecordable and severity rates are an indicator of how successful safety efforts are. Total cost of afety "nonconformance" i.e. the cost of hurting people and reporting to the government, is also a measurement with meaning to financial managers and quality program folks. These metrics can be useful to compare performance to past years or to other firms, but they are not especially indicative of best strategies for improvement.
Near-misses were viewed for many years as a way to more aggressively address risks in the workplace. If employees would recognize these events as potential accidents and take preventive measures, they might avoid more serious and severe outcomes. However, near-miss reporting is not very popular or systematic. Most organizations cannot really trend their near-misses because of reporting irregularities due to time restraints, fear of discipline, and failure to recognize the importance of such reporting.
It can be argued that behavior-based safety (BBS) enjoys a part of its popularity because of the way it is measured. BBS attempts to measure a portion of the safety process that has the potential to predict accidents and suggest prevention strategies, i.e. behaviors. Measuring the frequency and reasons for unsafe acts or behaviors can provide a window to possible future accidents that suggests proactive strategies for accident prevention.
Physical audits or risk assessments can be the counterpart to near-miss or BBS systems. These audits look for conditions that can cause accidents in the workplace. Such audits have been touted by insurance carriers for years and are used by many organizations to good effect. Even if DuPont and the National Safety Council are right in their studies of the ratio of accidents caused by unsafe acts vs. unsafe conditions, the conditions part of safety remains one channel for continued performance in accident reductions.