When it comes to safety performance why do organisations persist in focusing mostly on what they have done and where they have gone wrong? There is so much energy spent reporting on, analysing and sometimes even ‘fudging’ lagging incident data that paying the necessary attention to leading indicators often misses out.

Safety incident data are used for multiple purposes. Externally, tenders are often won and lost, and internally, bonuses are frequently paid all on the basis of safety incident data.  But a focus on lagging data for these and other purposes is simply looking in the rear-view mirror at the organisation’s ‘history’. It is reacting after the fact. This is akin to a rugby team focussing post-match only on the tries scored against them, instead of looking at the game as a whole and the stats that will improve team performance, such as metres gained, balls to hand and the obvious one in tries scored.

While industry isn’t going to change safety reporting habits overnight, many organisations are realising substantial benefits by focusing more on their lead indicators when reviewing performance, and de-emphasising their KPIs relating to lagging incident data.  Leading indicators are proactive and represent the positive steps an organisation can take to improve their safety performance.

There is a range of leading indicators that can be considered, from the more commonly used training compliance percentages, to audit outcomes and inspection completions, to detailed dashboards reflecting the risks based on their ratings.

These leading KPIs work best where there is a direct connection to the overarching WHS objectives, for example:

  • If there is an objective to enhance WHS knowledge and understanding, then a proactive KPI could link to WHS training completion statistics.
  • If there is an objective to improve safety ownership and accountability, worker-led participation and consultation could be measured.
  • If there is an objective relating to the management of workplace risks, this can be considered in terms of hazards identified via the various site processes, through to the risks being assessed and the controls implemented.

Ironically, company Boards and Executive Management still seem to be focussed on the negative lagging indicators like LTIFR & TRIFR, as opposed to the information that they really need to see in order to ensure that they are fulfilling their positive due diligence requirements. This mismatch definitely presents an opportunity for positive change.

Please contact QRMC for more information.