Can You Predict Your Safety Future? OSHA Wants to Follow Your Lead(ing Indicators)

Finding a hazard in need of a fix may be obvious after an incident occurs, but what about predicting in advance where to focus your safety and health resources to prevent injuries? In November 2019, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) will convene a stakeholder meeting to gather examples and success stories with safety and health leading indicators.

Finding a hazard in need of a fix may be obvious after an incident occurs, but what about predicting in advance where to focus your safety and health resources to prevent injuries? In November 2019, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) will convene a stakeholder meeting to gather examples and success stories with safety and health leading indicators.

OSHA notes in its recent notice that many employers use lagging indicators to track when safety and health problems occur, but these metrics only catch our attention after it’s too late. As a result, it advises that employers “also consider using leading indicators, which are “proactive, preventive, and predictive measures” that can “drive change.” Lagging indicators, meanwhile, can still help measure program effectiveness.

OSHA already has published a guide with best practices for using leading indicators. Examples of these metrics include:

  • The percentage of workers who attend a monthly safety meeting.
  • The amount of time it takes to respond to internal safety complaints.
  • How often truck brake pads are replaced.

The concept is to identify measurable actions that can affect safety, set goals, track progress and communicate with the workforce to continuously strive for better performance. OSHA’s upcoming stakeholder meeting seems intended to gather more experiences and examples of successful programs.

OSHA Wants to Know – What Works With Leading Indicators?

OSHA poses the following questions, asking for answers that include case studies, real world examples, and supporting data:

  1. To what extent are leading indicators used in your workplace?
  2. Do you use leading indicators as a preventative tool for fixing workplace hazards, or as a tool for improving performance of your safety and health program?
  3. What leading indicators are most important in your workplace? Why were these indicators chosen?
  4. How do you determine the effectiveness of your leading indicators? How do you track your leading indicators?
  5. What leading indicators are, or could be, commonly used in your industry?
  6. What challenges, if any, have you encountered using leading indicators?
  7. How many employees are at your facility, and how many are involved in tracking leading indicators?
  8. How has the use of leading indicators changed the way you manage your safety and health program or other business operations?
  9. What should OSHA do to encourage employers to use leading indicators in addition to lagging indicators to improve safety management?

The stakeholder meeting will be held on November 7, 2019 at the U.S. Department of Labor’s headquarters in Washington, DC. The deadline to register is October 30. If you can’t make it in person, you can also submit written comments until February 7.

About the Author

Avi Meyerstein works for Husch Blackwell.

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