Caliber Safety works with leaders to build businesses that protect people from getting hurt at work. Michael shares his thoughts on safety, human performance, work culture and business, with the goal of helping others be more mindful and effective in their approach to safety management.

Is how you measure “safety”, making you less safe?

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With Safety; measure what matters, not what is easy!  

Organizations should stop using lagging indicators to measure how “safe” they are. It simply makes no sense. Years ago, influential safety pioneer Dan Petersen wrote of how measuring performance through accident-based lagging indicators was a “waste of time” and “meaninglessness”. Petersen wrote that organizations to enlist “anything but accident-based metrics” to score managerial performance, emphasizing active participation in activities designed to improve safety performance.


Results Matter 

Results matter; injury and accident prevention matters! Seeing measurable progress in the ability to avoid accidents and injury by recognizing and reducing risk, indeed, matter! Organizations wisely retain the “Zero Injury” mindset, but with one caveat – a “Zero Injury” mindset in itself is not a sustainable safety improvement strategy. Asking workers to be accident-free does not inform them how to do so. Merely ordering employees what to avoid (making mistakes, causing injuries) is not the same as providing vital leadership, support, and direction in reducing risk and preventing adverse events.


Understand How You Get Results 

To improve safety, it is critical to understand how results can be achieved. Accident-based lagging indicators merely score the end-result, offering little insight into how results were obtained or how well current processes are performing to prevent the next accident.  In short, accident-based metrics only tell us what has happened, not what is happening! Without information to gauge how the organization performance in real-time, organizations have no way of knowing “how close to the edge” they are from having their next accident. Until they have it! Without good data on performance, leaders are only as safe as their next accident.

Managers end up “putting out fires” rather than proactively tackling safety issues to reduce risk and prevent injury.


Accident-based Metrics Make You LESS Safe!

Measuring safety performance through stale accident-based metrics further gives rise to what is known as the “Regulators Paradox.”  The paradox is that if we measure safety by the number of accidents we have, then successfully driving that number of injuries to zero leaves nothing to measure or monitor future performance. For an organization successfully attaining zero injuries, little or no information remains to detect how well it is performing or how “near the edge” it is to facing adverse events. Without data to gauge performance, management is blind to intervene or make corrections that could improve performance and prevent injury  Officials remain unable to sense the threshold of imminent serious injury … until it happens!


What To Measure Instead 

In truth, those accident-based metrics do not measure safety. They measure only a lack of safety. Measuring safety by counting the number of people injured during the workday gauges an absence of safety, not its presence. Thus, it makes sense to discard accident-based metrics in favor of a more accurate measure of safety within an organization. Measuring “safety” is difficult when trying to account for non-events such as the number of prevented accidents. Yet, what we can score are the things we do daily, weekly, monthly and yearly to curb risk levels in our operations in terms of both the severity and likelihood of employee injury.

How are you measuring safety? Are you measuring the right things? How do you know? 

Michael Fackler, MBA, CSP, ARM is the owner of Caliber Safety, LLC, a Management Consulting firm specializing workplace safety and health. Caliber Safety works with business leaders to uncover and understand the systemic, procedural, and cultural drivers of operational and safety performance, and transform these insights into actionable strategies that optimize and align organizational systems and processes – ultimately building a workplace culture that values safety and provides positive results to the organization’s bottom line

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