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Maximizing HSE ROI: How to Identify and Measure Value

Excellence in safety isn't merely about achieving zero injuries or incidents; it's about attaining outstanding results through a robust understanding of those results, coupled with a culture that emphasizes continuous improvement.

Many organizations tend to focus on programs and activities without evaluating whether these initiatives truly add value to their safety culture. The goal shouldn't be merely to compete with business objectives like production but to demonstrate how safety efforts can enhance overall value. Zero incidents should be a byproduct of these value-driven efforts, not the sole objective.

Rethinking Safety Strategy

Many organizations follow a perpetual cycle of just trying to avoid failures, where the primary, yet misguided, goal is zero injuries. This cycle often involves reviewing current injury rates, setting new objectives, developing initiatives, and executing them. However, this approach has several pitfalls:

  1. Mistaking Correlation for Causation: Improved safety performance doesn't necessarily result from specific actions taken. Just as avoiding injury doesn't inherently mean an action is safe, better performance isn't always due to specific safety initiatives.

  2. The Fallacy of More: When safety rates don't improve or new incidents occur, the tendency is to do more, rather than doing safety better. Removing non-value-adding efforts is sometimes the key to enhancing safety.

A Strategic Approach to Safety

An effective safety strategy is a framework for making organizational choices that deliver real value. It's about answering how the organization will win and recognize its success. Progressive organizations have shifted from measuring lagging indicators (like past results) to leading indicators (inputs and activities) and, more importantly, to transformational indicators, which assess the contributed value from activities to results.

Health as an Analogy

Consider personal health: A heart attack is a lagging indicator, while exercise and diet are leading indicators. However, if blood pressure remains high despite healthy lifestyle choices, more exercise or a stricter diet may not be the solution. Blood pressure here is a transformational indicator, showing the value derived from these health activities.

Transformational Indicators in Safety

In safety, transformational indicators might include desired beliefs, emotions, knowledge levels, competencies, behaviors, and organizational storytelling. These indicators assess whether safety training and initiatives translate into knowledge, belief, and effective action.

The Need for a Safety Strategy

Organizations striving for excellence in safety performance realize the need for a clear strategy. This involves choosing what to do, what not to do, or what to stop doing. The focus shifts from merely tracking results and activities to capturing and delivering value to the beneficiaries of safety efforts.

As organizations evolve their safety strategies, they should ask: What transformational indicators will show the value contributed by our safety efforts? Focusing on these indicators can significantly enhance the organization's chances of achieving true excellence in safety.

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