When it comes to creating a strong safety culture throughout an organization, one of the most common questions we hear is:

“how do we move beyond the good intentions of managers and get frontline workers to internalize safety culture?”

One of the key pieces that we’ve discussed often on this blog
is operationalizing safety culture. In other words creating systems and processes so that safety becomes an intrinsic part of every task, rather than a point on a checklist.

A good place to start is with leading indicators. In this post, we’ll explain what those are and how your organization can use them to create a stronger safety culture.

What are leading indicators?

You are likely already using lagging indicators – incident data that you collect and analyze to identify safety problem areas. Leading indicators, on the other hand, focus on identifying and measuring actions that will reduce the likelihood of a negative outcome before it happens.

For example, a leading indicator might be measuring whether hazard assessments are being properly completed; are risks being identified and reported? Or measuring the percentage of workers who have safety training beyond the legislated minimum.

While both types of indicator are valuable tools, leading indicators offer some distinct advantages that could significantly benefit your safety program:

  • They measure the presence of safety, rather than the absence of injury.
  • They pinpoint the effect of precise actions.
  • They acknowledge individual efforts and motivate safe behaviours.
  • They demonstrate that the safety of individual workers is important to supervisors, managers and executives.

If this seems like a complicated topic, don’t despair! Worksafe Alberta has produced a simple and comprehensive guide to using leading indicators in your OHS program. It will help you ascertain what level your OHS program is currently at, and what leading indicators would be useful to your own operation.

Leading indicators as part of a safety program


Download the Worksafe Alberta guide for valuable information:

In the guide you will learn how to identify the correct leading indicators for your own organization, and how to use them most effectively. For instance:

1. It’s important to select leading indicators that apply to areas where you are striving for improvement. If your organization has a high incidence of employees being injured while driving, you could select indicators around driver training, road safety awareness and so forth.

2. In order for leading indicators to be truly effective they should be:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Accountable
  • Reasonable
  • Timely

To be effective, the link between what leading indicators measure and the desired outcome should be clear. This will allow you to track the performance of those indicators and evaluate whether they have any effect on reducing negative incidents and increasing positive outcomes.

A positive, proactive approach to health and safety can have significant and measurable benefits.

Safety culture is a hot topic for us here at Enform, and a concept we’re keen to share with everyone in our industry. For more information, check out these blog posts on operationalizing safety culture.