News & Information Blog

Why Lagging Indicators Don't Work

By Susen Trail | 08/26/2020

The following wide-spread and long-standing safety weaknesses can all exist within a culture based on ever lower incidence rate numbers and zero goals rather than a wholistic approach to safety management:

  • Worker-focused behavioral safety programs
  • Deferred maintenance on safety-critical equipment
  • Unworkable and unfollowed procedures
  • Tolerance for production over safety

For some, OSHA’s rule against rewarding days without incidents came out of the blue.  Many businesses found the readably observable and easy to track incidence rate to be the obvious key metric to measure the quality of their safety programs.  Here are three examples:

  1. Texas City Refinery workers had just returned to their workstations after attending a luncheon celebrating their excellent safety records when an explosion killed 15 and severely injured nearly 200 other workers.
    • The Refinery’s reportable incident rate was one third of the industry’s average.
  1. DuPont, Laport Texas, received the National Safety Council’s top safety award in 2013 winning praise for its commitment to environment, health, and safety. Just a year later 4 workers died from exposure to workplace chemicals.  OSHA’s investigation found DuPont to be “indifferent to the health and safety of their employees.”
    • DuPont had been praised for its exceedingly low incident rates.
  1. Deepwater Horizon had received 15 safety awards over the years and was hosting several British Petroleum and Transocean executives on the platform to congratulate the crew on their outstanding safety record when the platform exploded killing 11 people, creating the largest oil spill in history and a rather good film.
    • The platform had gone 7 years without a lost time injury.

The most telling indication that focusing on reducing rates in our nation’s businesses is missing the mark is that, while injury/illness rates have decreased, the fatality rates have been steadily increasing since 2009.

That’s why Simple Safety Coach provides leading indicator metrics that are automatically identified and organized into real time graphs and measures of the health and efficiency of your safety culture.

Contact us today to schedule a demonstration and discussion of our software to see if it is a fit for you!

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