Key Takeaways

  • Leading indicators are a well-documented component of occupational safety and health management systems to evaluate OSH performance.

  • This two-part article presents research that examines the use of leading ergonomic safety performance indicators in the American workplace for reducing risk and experiencing fewer ergonomic loss events.

  • Part 1 of this article discusses the impact of ergonomic musculoskeletal disorders in the workplace and safety performance indicators. It describes the research performed and discusses several of the findings.

  • Part 2 discusses additional research findings and the implications for the OSH profession. Finally, the author presents several conclusions.

Can the use of leading OSH indicators reduce the lagging results? The short answer is yes. Leading indicators have been a well-documented component of global occupational health and safety management systems (OHSMS) to evaluate their OSH performance. Effectively operating OHSMS reduce risk and prevent loss events that result in lagging indicators.

While leading indicators have been researched in this realm and the field of quality control, leading ergonomic safety performance indicators (SPIs) have not been specifically studied for evaluating the effectiveness of ergonomic management control programs (EMCP). The author recently completed OSH research to assess the degree to which leading ergonomic SPIs are valued and utilized, identify the perceived difficulties in implementing leading ergonomic SPIs, and examine the impact the person assigned OSH responsibilities has on the use and importance placed on leading ergonomic SPIs.

This research sought a reduction in ergonomic risk and related loss events due to the increased use of leading ergonomic SPIs to measure EMCP effectiveness. An SPI is a lagging or leading indicator to measure performance and evaluate whether a certain OSH or OHSMS goal has been achieved. This research is believed to be the first to study the perceived importance of leading ergonomic SPIs in the evaluation of EMCPs and therefore functions as a baseline for the perception and use of these SPIs, and the possible obstacles to implementation faced by today's OSH professionals.

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