The traditional safety scorecard is a representation of the companies previous year's incidents and/or losses. These values are compared to the Bureau of Labor Statistics' (BLS) calculated values for that industry. A value lower than that benchmark is deemed to be "good." So how much lower that the BLS values may indicate outstanding performance? There really is no accepted standard. So every company sets their own standard and pronounces that their program is "world class" upon reaching that goal. Another way to measure safety performance is to comparing oneself to one's own past performance. This may show improvement but not excellence!

One of the major drawbacks of this methodology is that these metrics are based on historic data and may or may not provide accurate information on what is not working effectively and more importantly what is truly driving performance. Another major drawback is the lag time between incidents and BLS reports, which may take over twelve months. Waiting that long to get information on which to act is unacceptable in this business environment and makes no economic sense. To achieve excellence in safety performance the organization needs metrics that provide just-in-time information to "fix" what is not going right. To achieve excellence in safety management needs "real time" information on the systems, processes and associated risks so that they may intervene immediately to correct the situation and eliminate the risk of incidents in the workplace.

Traditional Safety Practices

Organizations after studying their past year's performance records arrive at the more obvious areas that are performing the poorest and then devise a strategy for "fixing" them. They may also study their accident reports to get a better understanding of the causes of losses. Invariably the interventions fall into these general categories. These are training, priority programs, rigorous inspections, focusing on particular problem areas, writing new program elements, or more training to name a few. These interventions have been tried for decades with little true success. Yet we continue to use them in spite of the fact that similar incidents keep reoccurring.

There are some inherent weaknesses in this approach. The past situations do not necessarily predict future conditions. There may be material differences not only in conditions but also in processes, procedures, practices, the workforce as well as operations. As these change so does the risk picture. So interventions based solely on past events will provide incomplete information and that certainly is not a recipe for excellence.

Another structural shortcoming is the major focus on workers and their behavior as an improvement strategy based on the premise that the worker has complete independent control. That is not strictly true. The worker has control of his/her actions but management controls virtually everything else. In fact management can largely influence the workers actions by the quality of its oversight, planning, equipment provided, operational plan, feedback given, things it rewards, relevant communication, quality of its leadership as well as the culture and climate it creates.

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