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Thinking Strategically About Health and Safety: Setting your Key Performance Indicators (KPI’s) to Ensure Greater Impact.

“If you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it”

Commonly used as an opening sentence at a management training session, renowned thinker Peter Drucker is famously credited with the above saying referring to the notion that you cannot be successful unless success is defined and tracked. Without clear objectives, you’re always going to be stuck guessing and unfortunately that just does not cut it anymore in today’s fast paced business world.

It is normally that time of the year (if you go by the financial year that is!) where you have been asked by your manager to come up with a set of clear objectives for health and safety within your company. Indicators to which the overall performance of the organization can be measured and targets can be set. After all your superiors need to know what resources need to be allocated based on some of the targets you have set.

I will use this article to provide you with a number of key health and safety performance indicators with an emphasis on how these can be measured to provide you with a road map to the overall health of your company’s health and safety performance. The same KPI’s should also be used to gauge performance year after year, more indicators may be added at a later stage as your organisation grows and more data becomes obtainable. You should however, stay consistent with the ones you started with.

Before I start, we would need to briefly discuss the concept of leading and lagging indicators as we generally look at leading indicators when KPI’s are set. We will have some lagging data too of course, I will however explain how you can use elements of the lagging data to obtain the leading indicators needed. Don’t worry, I will explain how this works.

Leading indicators (A.K.A being proactive) can be measured without an incident, accident or property damage occurring. They are useful in being able to predict or prevent future events and are often linked to processes or targeted activities. Examples of these can include safety audits, behaviour based observations, near miss reports, site inspections, number of HSE trainings or pre task discussions conducted.

Reactive data such as lost time incidents, minor accidents, first aids, medical cases, lost work days, employee absenteeism data or property damage are indicators that show the number or severity of events which have occurred. These of course are considered as lagging indicators.

Considering leading indicators, the below are examples of some of the basic health and safety KPI’s that could be applied to monitor the health and safety performance of any organization. It is normally advisable that these indicators are worked out in terms of percentages to provide a clear overview of performance:

Percentage of Health and Safety Training completed:

This is a great leading indicator for overall HSE performance and one that from my experience usually correlates to an overall strong health and safety performance.

A number of systems need to be in place before you can set this one as your KPI. You need to have conducted a detailed health and safety training needs analysis, signed off training matrixes highlighting the health and safety trainings for every individual within the organisation, have a database or learning management system in place to record who has undergone the required training and who has not, and finally, a means for delivering the actual training to the employees.

At the end you should be able to get a total number of H&S trainings required within the company and you should also know who has completed how many H&S related trainings.

Formula = (Total Number of H&S trainings completed / Total number of H&S Trainings required)

Percentage of accident investigation actions closed out:

As we discussed earlier, accidents are normally lagging indicators, however I also mentioned that it was important to find a way of obtaining leading elements of the data.

When an accident investigation is closed out, a number of actions are normally highlighted to ensure such an event never takes place again. In this case these actions will be considered as leading indicators and it is important to keep track of these on an overall database and monitor when they have been rectified by the relevant party within your company.

Formula = (Total number of accident actions closed out / Total number of actions)

Similarly, actions closed as a result of near miss reports or safety observations should be monitored in the same way.

Percentage of monthly subcontractor HSE reports received:

As you probably already know, contractors working at your premises are your responsibility! You should have a clear idea how many such companies come under the umbrella of your organization (Surprisingly this is actually easier said than done in some organizations!). This information can be obtained from your procurement or your contracts divisions.

It is important that your company is able to set the HSE standard for its subcontractors, and requesting them to provide you with a detailed report on a monthly basis at an early stage of them winning a contract at your organizations is not too much to ask. Having these reports at the end of every set period gives you an indication of your subcontractor’s engagement.

Having a low KPI in this area will prompt you to investigate which subcontractors are not onboard and should hence trigger you to work with that particular contractor to enhance engagement.

Formula = (Number of reports provided / Number of subcontractor companies)

Percentage of pre-task safety discussions conducted:

This one in a way gauges your employee commitment to health and safety.

Systems need to be in place to ensure this KPI is accurate and you would need to have an overall outlook on the number of hazardous tasks that are taking place within your company at any given time. This can be related to the number of Permits (PTW) issued or the number of Method Statements or JHA’s produced for certain tasks.

Pretask safety discussions should normally take place at the start of each job, each day! These forms can then be checked against the number of tasks to determine employee involvement in these discussions.

Formula = (Number of Pre-task safety discussion / total number of critical tasks)

Percentage of management safety meetings conducted:

A great way to get a bigger picture of management commitment to safety and one that has been highlighted as one of the requirements of the new international health and safety management system standard ISO 45001.

Management or executive safety meetings are essential to both ensuring bigger picture safety issues are dealt with as well as to show overall leadership commitment throughout the organization.

Formula = (Number of Management meetings held / Number of management meetings planned)

Percentage of behavioural safety observation provided:

No matter what your views are on behavioural safety, numerous case studies have shown how effective it is in significantly reducing accidents and incidents in the workplace. It is also very effective in creating an overall safety culture within a company as well as ensuring employees feel easy about intervening and discussing at risk behaviours.

At the end of the day, for the strength of a behavioural based safety program to be measured, good statistics are needed, when it comes to larger organisations, the right software is essential to analyse the results gained from observation forms and so on.

I have worked in organisations that have had more than 10 KPI’s from behavioural based safety data alone. From measuring the quality, participation, coaching, number of observations, number of safe, number of at risk and many other variables.

The big one for me in this area remain the below:

Formula = (Number of safe observations / number of total observations)

These are just a few examples that could help you get started, you must always consider that these are bigger picture overviews of often complex processes and applications, similarly to your vehicle gauges giving you an overall indication of your car’s performance.

Setting achievable targets for your KPI’s is the next essential step, these need to be realistic and have the ability to give you an idea of where you are at and where you need to be. It should also act as a push for section managers to focus on certain areas of their operations to ensure these goals are met.

A company must also determine how often the data needs to be reviewed, monthly, quarterly or annually and ensure deadlines are set to receive the required data to support the overall picture.

Other areas must also be considered depending on the type of operations your company is involved in. The use of key performance indicators for process safety management, contractor safety management, health and hygiene monitoring, environmental and emergency response preparation are also common practices within the various industries.

In future articles I may delve into some more of these indicators and get into the nitty gritty of how they can be set up to ensure your HSE systems are effective until then please feel free to let me know if you need more help on the topic.


February 27, 2018

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