Historically, the majority of companies use traditional Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) statistics (e.g., lost workdays, first-aid cases) to determine overall performance. This approach is understandable because these same statistics are used for OSHA reporting, calculation of Experience Modification Rates (EMRs), and, in some instances, employee bonus/incentive programs.
While these statistics provide value for reporting process, they are, by definition, a lagging indicator of performance and are of little value when predicting future performance. In other words, you are placed in the position of looking in the rearview mirror to determine how well you are driving down the highway. Perhaps the biggest challenge with this approach is that an OSHA recordable rate of "0" does not provide any insight regarding the overall "health" of the program regarding implementation of program requirements. For example, a lower worker injury rate may indicate a sound safety program or it may indicate that the company was simply lucky and avoided any serious accidents during the reporting time frame. Use of mere OSHA statistics, without supportive mechanisms to define desired expectations/performance, can also disengage task-level personnel, the very personnel who can provide the greatest contribution to reducing accidents/incidents.
Although the majority of ES&H personnel can readily understand this philosophy, history has demonstrated that "up-line" management commonly reverts to using OSHA statistics. This is understandable because almost everyone has heard of these statistics, which are also mandatory reporting requirements. Combining this perceived "tried and true" method of monitoring ES&H performance with a tendency to avoid embracing processes not readily understood could prove to be a significant challenge, but one that is well worth the effort. The increased focus placed on engaging task-level personnel reinforces the importance for such a strategy.
A series of leading indicators needs to be developed to achieve significant improvements in overall safety and health throughout an organization. These leading indicators need to focus on areas determined by management, which are commonly developed through a collative process with task-level and mid-management personnel. Each organization needs to determine which leading indicators can provide the most value for their activities. Ideally, the leading indicators should be those can be clearly linked to the overall objectives.
Examples of overall objectives can include:
enhancing overall performance,
demonstrating concern to stockholder's sensitivities,
reducing operational costs, and
supporting continuous improvement processes. In turn, leading indicators are developed that address one or more of the overall objectives. Interviews with personnel throughout the organization, particularly at the task level, can provide a broad spectrum of concepts/ideas to be considered. In addition to interviews, existing data sources (such as previous audit results and employee surveys) can also provide a wealth of information for development of leading indicators, including those related to prior overall program performance, at-risk behaviors, and lessons learned.