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Safety Measurement - What Counts?

Updated: Dec 19, 2023

Developing effective safety measurement strategies is a critical yet often mismanaged aspect. Traditional reliance on incident metrics and reactive approaches can foster a culture counterproductive to genuine safety improvements. This blog emphasizes the need for a paradigm shift towards leading indicators and motivational measurement systems to achieve safety excellence.

Rethinking Safety Metrics: Beyond Lagging Indicators

Lagging indicators, such as incident rates, have their place in safety measurement but become less effective as an organization’s safety culture matures. These metrics can transition from being helpful to simply providing a historical account of incidents, potentially leading to a demotivated workforce. When an organization achieves zero incidents, the question arises: what next? It becomes imperative to assess whether safety strategies are truly effective or just fortunate. A shift from a “fail less” mentality to one focused on proactive success is essential.

Using Measurement as a Motivator

The primary goal of safety measurement should be to guide, align, and motivate towards safer behaviors. However, many organizations inadvertently instill fear instead of fostering a positive engagement with their safety systems. Safety measurement should be integrated into a balanced scorecard approach, inspiring and engaging employees rather than promoting avoidance and fear.

Creating Effective Leading and Transformational Safety Metrics

To transform safety measurements into tools for improvement and engagement, several key questions need to be addressed:

  1. Behavioral Excellence: What specific behaviors indicate progress towards safety excellence? Focusing on these behaviors allows for constructive feedback and coaching, moving away from punitive measures.

  2. Organizational Beliefs: Are the current beliefs within the organization aligned with desired safety outcomes? Understanding and measuring these beliefs can help identify gaps and areas for improvement.

  3. Alignment with Practices: How well do daily practices mirror desired safety behaviors? Evaluating this alignment can pinpoint discrepancies and areas requiring adjustment.

  4. Marketing Safety: How is safety marketed within the organization? Effective branding and positioning of safety can enhance its value and desirability among employees.

  5. Supportive Initiatives: Are new safety initiatives measurable and supportive of the overall safety strategy? It’s important that these initiatives contribute to the evolution of beliefs, behaviors, and the organizational safety narrative.

Involving Decision Makers in Safety Measurement

Safety should not be the sole responsibility of the safety department; it must be a core value embedded throughout the organization. Involving key decision-makers in the development and evolution of safety measurement strategies is vital. Their participation ensures that safety is not just a delegated task but a shared value, reflected in the behaviors and decisions at all levels.

To drive safety excellence, HSE professionals must advocate for a shift in safety measurement strategies. By focusing on leading indicators and developing measurement systems that motivate and engage, we can create a culture of continuous improvement in safety. It’s about evolving from a reactive, incident-focused approach to one that proactively celebrates and aims for safety success.

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