February 02 2020
By: Terry L. Mathis
A site safety leader I was working with recently expressed disappointment in his organization's attempts to develop leading indicators for safety. Most of them were activity-based and he did not see a good correlation between them and the lagging indicators. He asked me to give him a radical leading indicator to take to his leaders to shake up their thinking and get them on the right track.
I suggested he should start charging admission to safety meetings and track how many workers were willing to pay. He was tracking attendance at safety meetings as a "leading indicator" but it was a quantity metric with no quality element. Workers would not pay to simply drive up a number but would pay if the meeting truly added value to their safety performance. Leading indicators should either improve safety or identify areas that need improvement. Activities don't automatically improve safety. They might improve culture or competence, but few measure that. Improved culture and competence should improve performance, but few measure that. Improved performance should improve lagging indicators, but failing to measure the intermediate steps makes it difficult or impossible to understand how the activities impact lagging indicators. Does your organization understand the process of improving safety and have metrics to measure the process step by step?
Terry Mathis, Founder and CEO of ProAct Safety, has served as a consultant and advisor for top organizations the world over. A respected strategist and thought leader, Terry has authored five books, numerous articles, videos and blogs, and is known for his dynamic and engaging presentations. EHS Today has named him one of the '50 People Who Most Influenced EHS' four consecutive times. Business leaders and safety professionals seek Terry's practical insight and unique ability to introduce new perspectives that lead to real change.