The language from sport has permeated our national culture; terms from cricket, tennis and various codes of football have crept into our everyday language.

We often “let things go through to the keeper”, “ace” a presentation to the boss, get shown “the red card” or “flick pass” an issue to some else’s department.

This sporting vernacular gives us an ideal opportunity to present a parallel discussion of targets, objectives and performance indicators that can resonate with workers and help safety professionals achieve buy-in.

To simply explore this target-setting process with an example from rugby league’s State of Origin, the team’s ultimate goal is to win the series, and in order to achieve this goal a number of milestones or objectives have to be established, monitored and met.

The indicators used to dissect the match-day performance vary and include positive and negative indicators (including both teams’ offense and defence), for example:

Positive indicators:

  • Points scored
  • Attacking metres gained
  • Completion rates
  • Tackles made
  • Possession %

Negative indicators:

  • Penalties given away for poor on-field discipline
  • Unforced errors
  • Missed tackles
  • Tries conceded

Now to parallel this process within a safety context.

An organisation’s health and safety goal is often expressed along the lines of having a safe workplace or Zeroharm or reducing incidents. This is the long-term goal. How we achieve that needs to be broken down into manageable and achievable objectives and targets at each relevant function and level within the organisation. This means translating the overall goal into daily, weekly, monthly or quarterly actions or activities; things that can be easily measured, and, if achieved, meet the overall goal of a safer workplace.

Too often, key measurables that organisations focus on relate to injuries; whether it be Lost Time, Total Recordable, Medical Treatment. Whilst there needs to be attention given to injuries, they are not a measure of success. They are in fact, the opposite of the desired outcome, or put another way, the absence of injuries is the desired outcome. To focus exclusively on the negative indicator of injury statistics is to miss the opportunity of considering positive indicators that will have an impact on actually reducing injuries and promoting a safer workplace.

Measuring and placing a focus on injuries alone is like a team focussing solely on preventing goals (or runs) scored against them. This is in fact, only half the story.

A manager may not know how to ‘reduce injuries,’ but will certainly know how to go about key health and safety activities, such as; holding safety meetings, completing workplace inspections, ensuring staff are trained, and ensuring reported hazards are actioned. If these health and safety activities are identified, implemented and monitored, this will have impact on the overall goal of a safer workplace. These types of activities, then, become the health and safety objectives and targets.

It is always better to start with the smart objectives with emphasis on the simple. Too many organisations have complex metrics by which they measure health and safety, to the extent that the average employee does not fully understand them and, more importantly, does not buy in to them or ‘live’ them.

With the start of a new financial year, it is a good time to review your health and safety objectives and to refine them to a few simple lead/positive and lag/negative indicators that can be accepted by the whole organisation and successfully measure the overall status of health and safety.

Please contact QRMC for assistance with reviewing your WHS targets and objectives or your overall WHSMS.