Why Leading Indicators Are Such a Powerful Tool for Preventing Accidents at Work

Preventing accidents at work is one of the biggest goals of any EHS program. Unfortunately, many organizations still take a reactionary approach to workplace safety. As a result, instead of eliminating risk and potential accidents, they spend most of their time responding to incidents.

The best way to prevent accidents from happening is with the use of leading indicators. This article will explain what leading indicators are, why they’re so important, and how your company can begin taking advantage of this powerful information.

What are leading indicators?

Traditionally, organizations measured their safety performance using lagging indicators like illnesses and injuries. OSHA’s Total Recordable Injury Rate (TRIR) is one of the most well-known versions of this type of measurement. 

While lagging indicators provide valuable information and are an excellent way to gauge progress over time, they’re based on the past. Therefore, they’re a great way to show where your company had problems in the past but not necessarily where it will have issues in the future. 

In contrast, leading indicators are data that can help a company predict future events. They do this by providing clues about where the next accident may occur in addition to serving as one measurement of the current safety status of an organization. 

According to The Campbell Institute at the National Safety Council leading indicators are

“Proactive, preventative, and predictive measures that monitor and provide current information about the effective performance, activities, and processes of an EHS management system that can drive the identification and elimination or control of risks in the workplace that can cause incidents and injuries.”

When the goal is preventing accidents, companies need valuable predictive data, and that’s precisely what leading indicators do. 

Why are leading indicators so important?

Suppose safety audits indicate a particular process is out of compliance week after week. Instead of waiting to receive a fine and then overhauling their compliance program, leading indicators help companies identify issues before they can become something more significant. It’s the difference between being reactive and proactive. 

Here are a few examples of leading indicators commonly used within workplace safety:

Hazard Trends: If employees consistently identify the same hazard category on safety audits, it points toward an issue that is not being resolved as intended and could evolve into an injury. 

Near Misses: These close calls give companies hints as to where risks lie and what the next accident could look like. 

Training Hours: Training is essential for accident prevention, and a reduction in training could mean your workforce is more susceptible to the hazards in their work environment.  

Safety Participation: Workplace safety requires a team effort to be effective. If employees are not involved in the process and actively following safety protocol and hazard reduction, it can lead to negative results. 

Leading indicators are essential for businesses and can help companies start preventing accidents at work while reducing the direct and indirect costs associated with injuries and regulatory non-compliance.

In addition, leading indicators can also positively affect organizational goals. After all, workplace accidents are incredibly disruptive, require significant resources, and negatively affect a company’s productivity and profitability. 

ProcessMAP can help

Leading indicators are a powerful tool for a proactive approach to safety and health in the workplace. However, identifying and using that data is sometimes easier said than done, especially when your EHS management system doesn’t offer powerful analytics to help.

Getting that information on your own can be overwhelming or downright impossible. Companies that want to shift towards a proactive approach to safety need to consider moving towards leading indicators seriously, and ProcessMap can help. 

EHS software from ProcessMAP helps companies digitize, standardize, and analyze safety data across their entire organization, allowing them to take full advantage of their leading indicators. Schedule a demo today to learn more about how ProcessMAP can help move your organization’s safety, and health program from reactive to proactive and create a safer, more compliant workplace.

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