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Using Leading Indicators for Better Predictions

By Mike Harper | 10/12/2020

Everyone talks about incorporating leading indicators to take safety to the next level.  Lagging indicators are the traditional (and easier to determine) measures, but keep you looking behind instead of ahead.

Leading indicators are activities that you perform, as an organization, that have proven to have contributed to lower incident rates at a future time.  These are different than lagging indicators, which strictly measure past safety outcomes, regardless of how they were achieved.

The two can, and should, work side by side to measure and achieve the best results.  Let’s look at the following case:  Example Company offers ergonomic training two different ways; either in person or online, depending upon scheduling and availability.  Example Company has also measured injury rates for years.  The injury rate has been stable for quite a while.  A new Safety Manager takes a look at the data with a fresh perspective.  What she finds is a direct correlation between the injury rates and the type of training received.  Those employees that received in-person training had half the injury rates of those that took the online training.

In this case, the measurement of the lagging indicators allowed the data to be analyzed to choose a new leading indicator, the percentage of employees that receive in-person ergonomic training.  Based upon historical data (lagging indicators), ensuring a high percentage for the new leading indicator should lead to a lower future incident rate.  This new metric (that acts as a prediction) is now something that you track, just as you would any other historical pieces of safety data.

Now if, for instance, someone was to recommend outsourcing all ergonomic training to the online environment, you will be able to illustrate the impact that will have with a high degree of confidence.

You will still want to continue to measure the lagging indicator of injury rate by training type to ensure the correlation going forward.

Lagging and leading indicators should be used together to measure, identify and monitor safety actions so that you aren’t relying on guesswork to enhance organizational safety.

Collecting all of this data in a usable form can be daunting task, so let Simple Safety Coach do it for you!

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