One of the biggest problems in workplace safety is the way it is measured. There are numerous problems with traditional safety measures (i.e., various forms of injury rates, worker's compensation costs, etc.). Reliance upon these types of measures keeps organizations from progressing, and they are often counterproductive to "real" safety performance. As more SH&E professionals recognize the measurement problem, many have become motivated to learn how to develop an effective safety management system that includes a mix of trailing and leading indicators (Bevington). Organizations have changed how they measure other aspects ofperformance with the increasing popularity of the Balanced Scorecard approach. A better approach to safety measurement versus the exclusive use of trailing indicators is to determine those indicators which actually drive performance in an organization, and ensure an appropriate focus on those measures.
Today's safety professional is being exposed to an ever increasing amount of published information and seminars about the topic of safety performance measurement. It has been the authors' experience when speaking on the subject that the increasing amount of information is being met with a hearty welcome by the profession. Furthermore, the demand for the information certainly appears to be much greater than the supply. One particular aspect of safety performance measurement that has quickly become the most prominent interest is that of strategic development of measures that impact performance; the "how to" of development and implementation. The fact that safety professionals have been aware, and even frustrated, by the limitations of traditional safety measures for quiet sometime explains why they have quickly zoomed their attention to gaining management support for, and the know how to implement leading indicator measurement systems. While there is certainly no panacea for every organization, there are sound, fundamental strategies that all organizations can follow to develop measures to continuously improve safety performance.
As the introduction pointed out, safety professionals are concerned with gaining management support for implementing leading indicator measures. While safety professionals are strongly encouraged to emphasize the positives and parallels with other business measures that leading indicators provide, inevitably a great number of those professionals will have to explain theproblem with traditional measures that have been used for quite some time. Therefore, this article will provide a review of the problems associated with traditional measures before focusing attention on the strategies for development of leading measures.
Why do so many organizations use trailing indicators (traditional measures) exclusively, when these were never intended to be the basis for measuring safety performance at individual companies? One possible explanation lies with the fact that leadership in organizations may feel any other method of measurement is too elusive, too subjective or even impractical. Even when decision makers in an organization recognize the value of adding a mix of leading indicators into their safety measures, there is the realization that leading measures are not mandatory and are potentially more difficult to implement.