There is an iconic sign at most industrial sites that you may recognize: ‘XX days without an accident/incident/fall/etc.’ Common nowadays in mines, power plants, hospitals, and even offices, this sign is a proxy, an indicator for how ‘safe’ a particular workspace is. However, it is incomplete. Incident rates tell us a story that already happened. They don’t predict harm or inform causality.
One of the most common things PIPers see in the field is a disconnect between output and input indicators. Many organisations have a good picture of what they want to see (high profit, high growth, low cost) but lack a clear vision for how to get there. With safety, the goal is ‘no harm’. We measure harm through a variety of ways (recordable incidents, medically treated incidents, lost time incidents, etc.), but how do we reduce their frequency? What levers build a strong safety culture?
A client came to PIP with an injury rate three times their peers and asked us to assist in a safety turn around. They were measuring all of the common lagging indicators (MTIs, LTIs, etc.), but not inputs. We unearthed historical incident reports, analysed trends, and traced three core incident causes: hazardous plant, unsafe systems, and poor adherence to systems. For each of these levers, we identified input Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) and KPI owners with single point accountability:
But knowing what to change is only half the battle. In addition, we helped the client demonstrate visible leadership on incident investigations, incorporate safety KPIs into regular performance reviews, and democratise safety improvement ideas. The results were striking: in six months, the client had no lost time incidents and had reduced all other incidents by more than half.
So, the next time you see one a sign that says ‘XX days since the last accident’, stop for a moment and have a think about it. What drives that number? Is that luck, situation, or culture? What are the things I can do today to improve that number in the future?
Think Safe, Stay Safe