Lead Indicators: Using the correct metrics to measure health, safety and wellbeing performance

Given the detrimental effects that poor health and safety performance can have on the finances and reputation of a business, as well as on workers and their families, it is not possible to overstate the importance of effective health and safety management. 

Arguably, the most crucial component of health and safety management is measurement. After all, it is impossible to know whether your health and safety system is truly performing effectively without using the correct metrics. The correct metrics allow businesses to meaningfully track trends, evaluate the efficacy of the system, and implement consequential changes to make improvements over time. 

Lag indicators vs lead indicators 

In order to effectively evaluate the health and safety management that is taking place within a business, we must first understand the two main kinds of measurement which are referred to as lag indicators and lead indicators. 

While these measurements are very different to each other, they each play an important role in the evaluation of health, safety and wellbeing performance. Therefore, they must be used in concert with each other if we are to gain an accurate view of the performance of a health and safety management system.  

Lag indicators measure events that have happened in the past. In a work health and safety context, lag indicators include the number of incidents that have occurred, the amount of time that has been lost, the costs associated with workers’ compensation, how many injuries have occurred, etc. 

This means that lag indicators can only reveal the reactive performance of a health and safety management system. As such, lag indicators alone cannot measure how well the system is managing risks or preventing incidents from happening. 

Lead indicators, on the other hand, measure actions that are being taken to control and prevent risks, incidents and injuries. This means that these indicators can help us to anticipate future events, rather than focusing purely on the past failures of the health and safety system. Examples of lead indicators include safety training, safety audits, employee surveys and wellbeing programmes. 

Aside from assisting us in anticipating future events, lead indicators have the added benefit of getting businesses to involve their staff members in active and future-oriented conversations about safety. This delivers dual benefits to the business, as it increases staff buy-in to work health and safety initiatives, while also allowing the business to draw on the collective skills of their team to solve potential health and safety issues. 

Are you using the correct metrics? 

It is common for organisations to focus purely on lag indicators to measure the performance of their health and safety systems. However, this narrow focus will likely lead to an incomplete and ineffective evaluation of the system’s performance. 

If you need to know whether you’re measuring the right things in your business, or you’re not sure how to incorporate lead indicators into your system, please get in touch with us now!

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