Why are Leading Indicators Crucial in Safety Management?

Key performance indicators can be divided into several categories, but in this blog post, we’re concentrating on the lagging indicators versus leading indicators and how to apply them in safety management.


The difference of indicators

Lagging indicators refer to events that have already happened and are of historical nature. They are easy to identify and capture, but they are not reflective of current activities and they lack predictive power. In safety management, the lagging indicators measure accidents and fatalities or other events that have already taken place.

In contrary, leading indicators concentrate on preventive measures and future performance. These indicators predict the trends and therefore give an organization an idea of what is likely to happen. Therefore the leading indicators can be seen as proactive measurements which allow new adjustments based on results. The challenge with leading indicators is to identify and capture them.


Safety industry wrongly entertains lagging indicators

In the field of safety, all the indicators tend to be the first mentioned lagging indicators. The question is always about how many accidents happened, how many thefts occurred or how many work hours were lost. Even most of the bonuses in safety management are tied to the goal of zero accidents.

Company turnover is a lagging metric, as well as an accident frequency rate. But in order to have an actual effect on the business operations, every company should concentrate on the leading indicators to predict and adjust the direction of the company and its safety measurements.


Leading indicators as safety KPI’s

A good leading indicator is to analyze the correlation between the reported incidents and positive observations. The difference of this tactic is that it doesn’t only measure the negative observations such as accidents, fatalities, or near-misses, but also includes positive observations. This kind of an approach emphasizes the importance of everyone in the company reporting improvements they notice.

Examples of positive observations could be the increased use of safety equipment, more frequent visits of a guard in a grocery store, or the employees’ increased interest in the company safety manual. All these positive observations can be measured. In the end, the goal is to increase the number of positive observations and decrease the negative incidents.



From reactive to proactive actions

Health and safety at a workplace are everyone’s responsibility. When every employee in a company pays more attention to safety measures and reports positive observations, the number of negative incidents diminishes. This relation between the two values is an excellent leading indicator which shows a trend for the future. By looking at these kinds of leading indicators, every organization can turn from taking reactive actions into proactive actions.

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