Special Topics in Safety Management

Taking the Measure of Your Safety Program Using EHS Metrics

Is your safety program effective? How do you know? If you base your assessment solely on recorded injury and illness rates, you may not be getting the full picture—especially if you’re having a bad year. And if you do nothing more to evaluate your safety program, how will you defend it against OSHA citations, not to mention critics in your own organization?

It’s important to have a comprehensive picture of how your safety program contributes to your organization’s overall mission, both so you can defend it against attacks and so you can determine how to make it even more effective.

It’s time to go beyond recordable injuries and illnesses as a metric for evaluating your safety program. We’ll help you expand your repertoire of indicators on the front and back ends.

What Makes a Good Metric?

What exactly is a “metric”? In the classic sense, a metric is a standard of measurement. The decimal system of weights and measures is a metric. When we talk about EHS metrics, we are talking about a measure of performance toward a goal; it can be used to quantify, measure, and track value.

A good metric is one that provides decision makers with the data they need to make fact-based decisions. A good environmental or safety metric must be aligned (consistent and compatible) with the methods used by the business to measure financial and management performance, collect data, and report business results.

The method used to display the results of the metric must also be consistent with the terminology and methods used to display other business outcomes within the organization. Therefore, a good metric can be measured and reported in relation to at least one of these attributes:

  • Quantity
  • Time
  • Quality
  • Cost

EHS metrics, in particular, should be able to accomplish one or more of the following goals:

  • Demonstrate progress toward the organization’s goals and objectives.
  • Inspire or motivate a change in behavior or a process.
  • Make it easy to measure and/or collect data.
  • Be easily understood by management.

Choosing What to Measure

Following are general tips for choosing the data or other information that will be measured:

  • Use data that are readily available and can be gathered at regular intervals.
  • Use the ratios, formulas, key performance measures, and language used by business leaders.
  • Track the costs associated with your metrics to calculate a return-on-investment for your safety program.
  • Include measures of results and quality, in addition to information on costs.
  • Tie metrics directly to the key challenges facing the business and the results that must be achieved.
  • Avoid metrics that do not add value in making decisions.
  • Identify and compare results with those of key competitors or similar operations, whenever possible.
  • Establish goals for continuous improvement.
  • Avoid soft metrics based on feelings or intuition about a program, and use hard metrics or data to drive fact-based decision making.

Tune in for tomorrow’s installment, when we’ll get into specific leading and lagging safety indicators that work well for EHS programs.