Safety Metrics: Measuring What Matters Most

You’ve worked hard at developing a safety system for your organization. How do you know if it is delivering the best results possible? Is your safety system meeting the goals you established? They way to know for sure is through Safety Metrics, also called Safety Performance Measurement.

Simply put, Performance Measurement is a means to show how well we are doing in achieving an objective or goal. It indicates what a program is accomplishing and whether results are being achieved, and it provides information on how resources and efforts should be allocated to ensure effectiveness.

Benefits of Performance Measurement
Performance Measurement is a continuous improvement tool that provides many benefits. Performance Measures are effective tools because they:

  • Help us make informed resource decisions; decisions are based on fact, as opposed to emotion.
  • Drive a process by focusing on Things that are Important.
  • Help us better understand our processes.
  • Identify if we are meeting customer (internal & external) requirements.
  • Identify where improvements need to be made.
  • Verify the effectiveness of corrective actions.
  • Serve as an early warning of problems or conditions that could lead to serious error.
  • Demonstrate accountability to all concerned.
  • Allow us to benchmark our performance with other organizations.

Many organizations use only Lagging Indicators in their measurement system. While these are important, and in fact are required to be kept as directed by OSHA regulations, adding Leading Indicators can help us to see where we need to improve. In fact, Leading Indicators can actually serve to prevent injuries rather than simply report on injuries that have already occurred. Here are some examples:

Lagging or Trailing Indicators

  • Lost work time,
  • Injury rate,
  • Work restrictions, etc., and

Leading Indicators or Positive Performance Measures 

  • Proactive measures to control or prevent injuries.
  • Number of scheduled inspections completed.
  • Percentage of Lockout/Tagout procedures reviewed annually.

“Measuring the effectiveness of safety programs usually becomes an assessment of accident statistics. This is basically an exercise in measuring luck” Dan Petersen

But a solid performance measurement system does not just happen; research and planning are essential. The 4 key steps in developing a Performance Measurement System are:

  1. Strategic objectives are converted into Key Goals,
  2. Metrics are established to compare the desired performance with the actual achieved standards,
  3. Gaps are identified to allow us to understand performance, and
  4. Improvement actions are initiated.

There are a variety of tools that can be used in measuring safety. Some of these tools are found in the improvement methodology known as “Lean”. In Lean terminology, poor safety is a form of waste. Using Lean methodologies, we can incorporate safety into process and production plans and thereby achieve goals in improved worker health, reduced costs, and increased value.

There is much more to using Safety Metrics and bringing LEAN methodologies into the picture. View my recorded Audio Conference titled “How to Use and Understand Safety Metrics”  to learn more about how metrics can help improve your safety management system and your safety culture as well. For more information or to register, visit:



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2 responses to “Safety Metrics: Measuring What Matters Most

  1. Great article very informative. Thanks

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