Key Takeaways

- Safety-focused leadership engagements are important because, if performed well, they can convey company priorities, demonstrate care and reinforce positive safety culture.

- A team of 11 safety experts representing the four construction industry sectors identified and prioritized the attributes of an effective leadership engagement.

- A scorecard was created to assess the quality of a leadership engagement, and the scorecard was shown to be reliable in independent validation.

Safety performance has long been measured using lagging indicators such as total recordable incident rate (TRIR) that involve counting the number of injuries that occur over time. However, recent research has shown that these metrics suffer from severe limitations in terms of validity, reliability and relevance (Hallowell et al., 2021). For example, it is well established that recordable injuries are underreported in industries such as construction (Probst et al., 2008) and even over millions of worker hours, changes in TRIR are almost never predictive because the occurrence of injuries is rare, and the timing of an injury is almost entirely random (Salas, 2020). Despite these limitations, TRIR and other lagging safety indicators are still used to make critical business decisions such as comparing business units, evaluating manager performance, prequalifying contractors, tracking safety performance and evaluating the effectiveness of safety interventions (Hallowell et al., 2021).

Although reliance on lagging indicators is still extensive and ubiquitous, some organizations have begun to move beyond using only lagging indicators as measures of safety performance and have explored measuring safety system elements as an alternative. Put simply, safety practitioners have begun to measure what they do to keep people safe as a measure of safety. These metrics are often referred to as leading indicators (Alruqi & Hallowell, 2019) and are arguably preferred over lagging metrics because they can prompt action before injuries occur (Guo & Yiu, 2016; Hopkins, 2009; Lingard et al., 2017).

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