Excerpt: “Creating & Maintaining a Practical Based Safety Culture©” – Alan D. Quilley
The processes of measuring safety or leading indicators are as varied as the processes we use to create safety. A leading indicator is an activity done or physical state that is created to increase the likelihood that the goal will be reached. Deming taught us that. Measure the inputs and the outcomes will follow. If you don’t get the outcomes you wanted, then you probably need to adjust what you are doing. What works in safety is simply…what works!
For example, if you don’t want to take the unnecessary risk of using the wrong tool to do a job (which would be by definition “unsafe”) your goal would be to ensure all our employees have access to the correct tool for their job and that they use them. Then through survey and observation you would measure to what extent that statement (your desired state) is true; in other words, a percentage correct. Over time you would discover where and why these things were true and where in your company they weren’t working. Any changes to your safety efforts would work towards making the statement of creating safety true. This process would become your safety audit which would be far more effective than buying an audit from some company or getting it free from a government organization (don’t get me started on that silly behaviour again). My clients create their own safety audit by establishing their own “future state” of safety, and then they measure their progress against their own vision of what safety is. It works, and it gets high involvement and high success!
This approach is the same one used by most companies to manage their production; they create their products and services this way. It’s an easy culture shift for folks who already measure activities to include safety measures that actually measure the existence and creation of safety. Then through your accountability system (all companies have them) you can motivate through positive consequences the accomplishment of the activities that create safety. Celebrate the accomplishment of the goal! If you take a low number of unnecessary risks you will, over time, accomplish the goal of safety, and the outcome will be very few people get hurt and very little will be property damaged. It’s so very logical!
As for the companies that measure leading indicators…well, I’ve never seen one that doesn’t. Unfortunately, in some cases they are only measuring the things that create production. Many companies are already using process measures of safety (percentage trained, hazards identified and corrected, processes reviewed, time to resolve identified issues). I couldn’t possibly name them all but I have clients in Oil and Gas, Chemical, Municipal, Transportation, Health Care, Education, and Law Enforcement industries who all use leading indicators of safety measures. Rather than name the companies that use and measure leading indicators to manage their journey to safe production, ask the list participants if there is one company out there that doesn’t.
Measure the human activities and physical things (tools, equipment, materials and environmental factors) that create the goals you want to accomplish.
Examples: I want low exposure (usually a defined number that’s measurable) to dust in my production area (that’s the goal to make it safe). I measure and manage the things that would create that goal (dust control measures, changing filters, and compliance with procedures to reduce dust). If I want great safety discussions I measure what creates great meetings (compelling topics, high participation, action items that actually get done). I measure to what degree the leading indicators are performed and then if the end result happened (great meetings) by asking the participants.
Here’s the process:
1. Establish the Goal (Outcome Measure)
I want to create a situation where ________________ is true!
• Employees wear fall protection,
• employees use lockout procedures,
• contractors following company confined space entry procedures,
• Ideally you’ll also include a measurable number (100% or “all”).
2. Measure (Leading indicators)
How I know the above statement is likely to be true. Count (quantity) or measure (quality).
• All areas have fall protection training and equipment,
• all employees working at heights are observed using the equipment,
• all employees surveyed say that fall protection is used and readily available.
Example: All employees will follow procedure XYZ. (Because we believe that following the procedure reduces our risks to an acceptable level and we’ve defined that procedure as safe). Measure how many are trained in each area to do the procedure. Observe and survey employees to find out if they are using the procedure
When you get to the state where the measures tell you that you’ve accomplished what you wanted to all that’s left to do is celebrate!
Measure those things that lead you to believe that you will reach your goal(s) of making it safe. Over time you will indeed accomplish what you set out to achieve.