Why the OSHA Recordable Rate is a Bad Metric

Senior leaders who understand safety culture and sustainability intrinsically know there is a lot more to evaluation safety efforts than one simplified metric. What happens for companies that are just starting their safety journey? Many use the OSHA Recordable Rate as a benchmark, but it doesn't tell the whole story. DEKRA recently interviewed two of its senior consultants on a statement: The OSHA Recordable Rate is a bad metric. Here's what Don Groover and Mike Mangan had to say on the topic.

Q: Do you agree that the OSHA recordable rate is a bad metric?
Groover: The idea behind the OSHA recordable rate was a good one. It provided a level playing field [for] what would be classified as a medical treatment case or an injury for recording purposes. It has provided that consistency not just in the U.S., but also for a lot of companies worldwide. It's the application of the metric that became the problem. People began to look at that metric as all insightful as to how [they] should view [their] company's performance in safety. "I can boil it down to this one number."

Mangan: It is like every metric. It doesn't tell you the whole world. It tells you what it's measuring. There are other areas that we've learned about safety that need to be measured even if we're only talking outcome measures. Injury rate only provides a piece of that pie, a piece of that intelligence. When it [is] the only measure that [is] used there [is] a whole lot that we miss.

Groover: One specific example . . . one of the biggest problems with the metric is a fatality is one and a cut that required two stitches is one. They're both classified the same. They're one OSHA recordable. So that's a problem in the metric. There's no looking at potential. It purely looks at the severity of the injury from the event. That's it. We know, especially from our research in serious injury and fatality prevention, it's all about potential.

Q: Potential has to do with leading indicators. Can you define what a leading indicator is?
Mangan: A leading indicator is something that occurs before an injury occurs that's actionable. So you can do something about it. You have an understanding of what it's telling you.

Q: Would maintenance of equipment be an example of a leading indicator?
Mangan: Yes, the extent to which you're doing a "fix-it" maintenance versus preventive maintenance is, for some organizations, a good leading indicator of whether they're going to have incidents down the road. Because if you have a lot of folks scrambling to try to [fix a] process that's unstable -- machinery that keeps breaking down -- they're more susceptible to incidents and it occurs more often.

Groover: The problem with leading indicators is that most organizations haven't done the research to prove that they're predictive. That's because they don't have the data.

Q: If the OSHA recordable rate is a flawed metric, what measures do you suggest I put on my safety scorecard, then?
Mangan: Leadership activities, leadership capability, and then organizational culture. The stronger the leaders are, the stronger the culture is, the better the safety results.

Q: Can you measure those things?
Mangan: Yes, you can and you can correlate them with incident results. We've done that. We use culture diagnostic instruments and leadership diagnostic instruments combined with on-the-ground assessments as a way of judging them.

Q: How often should you check your scorecard for results: daily, weekly, monthly?
Mangan: It depends on what's on the scorecard. I think something like housekeeping can be done every day. With culture, you're not going to measure that from a diagnostic standpoint as often. You can do a full diagnostic every 18 months and then, in the interim, get a sense of [whether you’re] moving in the right direction or not.

Groover: From my experience, you better be in for the long haul if you're trying to change culture. It takes 3, 5 . . . some organizations, it could take 10 years.

DEKRA Insight is a consultant and partner to many of the world's largest chemical, oil and gas, transportation, utilities, pharmaceutical, and agriculture companies. With a passionate, scientific approach to transforming safety, DEKRA clients mitigate risk to their employees, assets, and reputation in a quantifiable manner—and in the process, enhance business performance. DEKRA Insight is a service unit of DEKRA S.E., a global leader in safety since 1925 with more than 35,000 employees.

Posted on Jun 29, 2017

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