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Trends & Ideas

Leading Indicators for Injury Prevention 

Forward-thinking safety leadership requires leading indicators, which enable the understanding of the effectiveness of safety efforts underway at an operation. Management that dedicates time to continuous improvement uses leading indicators not only as a way to prevent injuries, but also to continuously improve productivity and quality in plants.

Because they measure proactive efforts, leading indicators can uncover weak spots before they develop into large-scale problems.  For example, observing significant tire wear suggests replacement. But recognizing uneven tire wear as an indicator for improper inflation leads to better maintenance and tire operation—and thus reduced like likelihood of losing vehicle control and injury.  In this way, leading indicators serve not just as a way to prevent injuries, but as a way of continuously improving productivity and quality.

Many safety performance parameters can be used as leading indicators, but some are better than others as tools to help improve performance.  Characteristics of effective leading indicators in managing safety are:

  • Simple, close connectivity to the outcome/results
  • Objectively and reliably measurable
  • Interpreted by different groups in the same way
  • Broadly applicable across company operations
  • Easily and accurately communicated

Leading indicators should be a mix of qualitative and quantitative information and built on a reliable system of data management.  Consider the areas that are most important to your safety performance, then  commit to track and follow up on these measures. Put in place a robust reporting, tracking, and correction system so that you have the capability to focus on opportunities and fix deficiencies.

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