Most businesses know that they need methods to measure the performance of safety. Many know the phrase “What gets measured, gets managed.”
Traditional safety performance measures
Where safety performance is measured, it is traditionally measured in financial terms of costs of injury and illness to the business (lag indicators). Work-related injury and illness has many costs to the business including direct costs and indirect costs. “Poor OHS performance and, when an injury occurs, injured employees remaining off work for extended periods of time, also affect an organisation’s productivity, organisational capacity, workplace culture and morale” (Comcare, 2004).
Lost time injury (LTI) statistics are also a common measurement used by organisations to monitor the effectiveness of safety improvement efforts. Indeed, it is still the only measure used by some businesses. The main problem with focusing on LTI statistics is that this approach is reactive and only allows for preventative actions following the occurrence of an injury.
It is possible for a small workgroup to operate with unsafe conditions and with little or no safety systems for many years without an accident. The absence of accidents or work injuries, particularly with smaller work groups, is not necessarily an indication of; legislative compliance, presence of safety systems or the effectiveness of them or a positive safety culture.
Four problems with lag indicators
- Experience shows that LTI Rate is NOT a good predictor of:
- future workers compensation costs
- potential for serious accidents
- presence of effective safety systems, or
- safety culture / behaviour
2. LTI Rate is not statistically meaningful for small work groups e.g. less than 500 employees.
3. Most businesses or sites are NOT large enough, on their own, to provide statistically meaningful LTI Rates, when measured over 12 months work exposure.
For example, a small site with about 12 employees would take nearly 40 years to generate one million hours work exposure. Even a large site with about 250 employees would take at least 2 years to accumulate one million hours work exposure.
LTI Rate is a reasonable measure, for sufficiently large organisations, for comparison purposes with other similar organisations, subject to confirmation of uniformity of reporting and interpretation of LTI data.
We suggest using the LTI Rate as a performance measure only where the work exposure is at least one million hours e.g. for work groups larger than 500 employees or averaged over many years. Note: Caution is still needed to ensure any comparisons of LTI Rate involve the same; work exposure, same definitions for LTI’s and the same interpretations.
Better ways to measure safety performance
We recommend a “Balanced Score Card” approach to measuring safety performance. This should include adopting suitable “safety KPI’s”, which include both lead and lag indicators.
Positive Performance Measures
Positive performance measures, sometimes referred to as “lead indicators”, are those that relate to activities, which help to establish or maintain workplace safety systems. For example, positive safety performance can be measured by various methods, such as auditing, employee surveys and key performance indicators.
Some other lead indicators include:
- Safety Business Plan on schedule
- Incident investigations completed within the time limit
- Number of hazards addressed since last inspection
- Number of safety inspections completed on time
- Number of training sessions completed
- Internal audits on schedule
- Employee surveys e.g. percentage of employees who believe the company is genuine about workplace safety
- Number of employees who seek help, if task unsafe (rather than conduct unsafe activity)
- Evacuation drills achieved within the target time