Managers cannot guide a business solely with a balance sheet. That is like trying to drive looking only in the rearview mirror. They need ‘headlight’ indicators such as market forecasts, recruitment prospects, and competition reports to guide their future. In the safety arena, Managers rely on trailing indicators – rearview mirrors based on frequency and severity of past accidents. Efforts to produce reliable leading indicators for accident prevention headlights have been published for many years (Heinrich, 1931) but they have had limited success and are generally based on assumptions that have been largely discredited (Manuele, 2011).

One leading indicator proposed at previous SPE International Conferences (Veley, 2002 and Veley et al, 2004) has been applied to varying extents by several companies. It involved categorizing stated corrective actions using standard management theory definitions for: 1) direct action, 2) supervision, and 3) management. Points were awarded accordingly, averaged, and modified with minor adjustments to produce an index reflecting overall problem solving effectiveness. Managers have used this index to set safety goals and standards (Ritchie, 2012), but that approach has serious flaws.

Initially this metric seemed to be the long-sought management headlights because it is derived from corrective actions and is linked to probability of accidents happening in the future. After analyzing several thousand accident reports where this metric had guided corrective action generations, the author found that it had side effects that caused subtle but serious harm. Safety headlights are still needed to show if the road ahead is getting better or worse, and measurements based on the worth of corrective actions would seem to have the best chance of meeting that need, if the undesirable side effects can be eliminated. An objective of this paper is to show how that can be achieved.

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