Safety’s Nagging, Lagging Indicators

· by Alicia Leary

Alicia is the Marketing Team Lead at HTI. She started her career with HTI in 2015 as a Sales Coordinator.
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All too often we hear about the safety success at a plant or warehousing facility being measured on reactive, or lagging, indicators.  The most common lagging indicators are generally OSHA Recordable Rate and DART (Days Away, Restricted, or Transferred) Rate.  Ultimately, each of these is a standardized rate calculated from the number of qualifying incidents per hours worked.  Ok, that seems logical, right?  It is, after all, somewhat of a measure of how effective your safety programs and practices are.  It can be used as an indicator, when analyzed routinely, of the most common types of injuries seen, most common body part injured, and most common work areas experiencing these injuries.  And, if a facility chooses to, focusing on delinquent areas as indicated through these rates can ultimately improve performance.  The problem is the focus still lies on what’s already happened.  The preventative piece, when being measured solely on Recordable or DART rates, is completely missing.  What’s the value in holding yourself accountable for what’s already happened?  Why not hold yourself accountable for getting ahead of the items that cause issues and correcting them before that’s what they turn into?

Perhaps most importantly, when Recordable and DART Rates are stressed as your safety indicators and incentives distributed based on those year-end results, what do you think triggers in the minds of the working associates?  Personally, if I worked in an environment like that where success was measured on not having injuries, I’d pipe down if I was hurt-even if I had a good idea on how to prevent that injury from happening again.  So by touting these rates so heavily, we discourage reporting from the employees; one of the most important factors in creating a proactive and preventative culture.  And that’s the downward spiral industrial facilities most frequently find themselves in.

Let’s instead think about this; what if we forgot about Recordable and DART rates for a moment?  What if we were to measure the success of our safety programs as a culture; measure the effectiveness of our practice through employee engagement and empowerment when it comes to safety?  With the reactive route being so strong rooted and traditional, it may be difficult to even envision what a “proactive safety culture” looks like.  There are three pieces of this puzzle that are actually not so tricky when you think about it; training, idea reporting, and auditing.  When we measure and track completion rates of required safety training, encourage and hold associates accountable for reporting safety improvement ideas and concerns, and analyze trends in routine safety audit scores, we have the basis for a successful and engaging proactive safety program.  When we apply these principles to practice on the front end, the back end takes care of itself.

These simple ideas are all too often what facilities miss when getting caught up in the reactive data; the “stuff” that’s already happened.  Sometimes, too, things have to get worse before they get better.  The second you stop measuring your safety program success on Recordable and DART rates, there will be a noticeable influx in injuries and near miss incidents being reported AND THAT’S OK.  After all, that’s what we want.  That’s what we want to encourage from our people.  Once we gather and correct those issues up front, we are on the road to smooth sailing and truly providing an environment to employees free of recognized hazards and harm.  That’s when we can feel confident that we are sending our employees’ home in the same condition they came to work that day.