Special Topics in Safety Management

Designing a Safety Metrics Program: Steps to Take

Choosing the measurements is only one step in designing a safety metrics program. Here are some of the others.

Yesterday’s Advisor began a discussion of safety metrics. We noted that the traditional way of tracking safety, the OSHA 300 Log, was among the least effective paths to safety. The reason: It’s a trailing indicator, a rear-view mirror look at safety. It tells nothing about what will happen in the future.

Instead, many experts suggest depending more on leading indicators, measures of activity that signal either future problems or, if they’re positive, future progress.

Such indicators include measures of how many exposures workers have to dangerous conditions or materials, and on the positive side, counts of safety-related activity. These include inspections, hazard reports, the results of worker surveys (and how they change over time), your rate of closure in resolving identified safety issues, and measures of the quality with which these tasks were completed.

Need to investigate an accident? Learn to do it the right way in BLR’s February 28 audio conference on the subject. Can’t attend? Pre-order the CD. Satisfaction assured. Click for details.

In setting up a measurement program, beyond deciding which metrics are possible, decisions are needed on who will choose those most applicable to your situation, who will track them, and how the results will be communicated to upper management. Certified safety professional Paul Esposito addressed these points in our bi-monthly BLR print publication, OSHA Compliance Advisor.

Some points that Esposito made:

  • The safety department should use, but not develop, the measurement tools. Also, data should be collected independently, then analyzed and applied by safety professionals. This avoids any hint that the data points were set up in a biased way.

  • Start with the data already on your desk, including accident investigation findings, maintenance work orders, and safety inspections.

  • Set targets employees know and can work toward. Esposito suggests something like “Last year, we had a 90 percent completion rate for outstanding safety issues. Let’s shoot for 95 percent this year.” (Note the important distinction he makes: It’s not a reduction of accident reports he asks for, because that could lead to underreporting to meet the goal. It’s a higher rate of completion of tasks to prevent accidents.)

  • Don’t wait for the perfect measurement tools. Start with whatever works, and improve it over time.

    A Safety Scorecard

    To communicate results to upper management, several companies use a “Safety Scorecard,” presented at regular management meetings. This presents a combined picture of all the metrics used and where they stand against goals, to provide a total safety progress picture.

    One company employing this technique is 3M, the maker of Scotch® brand tape. In building a scorecard, 3M corporate safety director John Mulhausen advises not trying to apply the same objectives to every facility. Instead, objectives are “scaled” to specific situations. “We would not have the same expectations of completion dates for a recently acquired facility as for one that’s been in the company for years,” he explains.

    Garbage In–Garbage Out

    The accuracy of whatever metrics you develop will depend in large measure on the quality of information on which they are based … the classic “garbage in–garbage out” syndrome. For this reason, wed like to bring to your attention an important February 28 BLR safety audio conference titled Accident Investigations: Why the Right Interviewing Skills are Crucial for Successful Inquiries and Safer Workplaces.

    Keep your investigations legal. Attend BLR’s February 28 accident investigation audio conference. If you can’t attend, pre-order the CD. Satisfaction assured or your fee refunded. Learn more.

    In this 90-minute session, you’ll learn a step-by-step method of carrying out an investigation; what you should and should not ask in interviewing victims, alleged violators, and witnesses; and how to make your inquiries both effective and legal.

    The presenter, Kristin VanSoest, is both a recognized safety consultant and an OSHA Outreach Instructor. As with all BLR audio conferences, you will able to e–mail or phone-in questions specific to your circumstances, one fee trains your whole staff, and satisfaction is assured or you get a full refund of the fee. If you can’t attend on February 28, a CD of the session can be pre-ordered.

    Click here for more information, to register or to pre-order the CD.

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