Do you use occupational health and safety performance indicators in your workplace?
Yes, cost of accidents, number, frequency and the severity of occupational accidents and diseases, for every 200,000 or 1,000 000 man hours worked. These indicators are most often limited to the financial aspects of health and safety and are more focused on losses.
Passive management indicators are not very good performance indicators of your health and safety management system. In fact, they only indicate if your efforts in the past have been fruitful or not and if you have been lucky or not. They are incapable of telling you if your preventive system functions well or if all elements are in place to obtain good results. With such indicators, you will not know what you are doing wrong and you will constantly repeat the same mistakes.
It is therefore important to invest in indicators that provide information on health and safety management and on adherence to preventive measures. For example:
For example, a distribution centre can present the cost of its occupational injuries in the following manner:
In its freight operations, it could indicate:
The numbers are clear indicators, since they deal with a certain facet of the organization’s mission. They create a certain image in the minds of the employees and are therefore informative.
Among the significant health and safety indicators, we can consider for example, the training provided at the workplace, cleanliness, and the organization of work areas. It is also possible to focus on the percentage of compliance to work safety regulations, among other things, on lockout, on the operation of forklift trucks, the degree of compliance with regard to the use of personal protective equipment, etc.
Declaring the observed results to the employees will allow them to assess whether or not they have attained the objectives. The results also specify the actions that need to be taken in order to continue the efforts related to OHS, with a view to maintain satisfactory performance. What matters is the ability to choose elements that is meaningful for the employees.
It is also important to emphasize on the activities that have been completed and have made the workplace safe and secure. Say, for example, that 78% of accident investigation and analysis reports have been completed in the most satisfactory manner, all worksite inspections have been conducted, and that 80% of the problems identified were resolved within the planned time frame. Highlighting these aspects will ensure that the people who carried out the preventive activities receive the recognition they deserve. It also encourages others to participate in a similar manner.
All information shared with the staff shows the importance that the organization gives to the OHS program on a daily basis. Moreover, when the scheduled health-safety actions are clearly indicated, it has a positive influence on the organization’s culture.
The principle objective of creating performance indicators is to provide managers, prevention specialists and members of the health and safety committee with summary documents, tracking reports or “cockpit” with regular and systematic reporting, and a collection of indicators that are most useful for an enhanced knowledge of risks and risk management: identifying key improvement or deterioration trends over time, identifying deviations that necessitate priority plans of action, evaluating the degree of objectives attained, comparing the organization’s data with that of the sector (benchmarking).
The implementation of an occupational health and safety indicators tracking report serves both as a situation diagnostic tool as well as a driving force behind actions and improvements: it is important to assess whether the planned improvements are effectively realised and whether this mechanism allows one to keep track of the progress of actions and their efficacy. This “feedback” promotes effective behaviour by measuring either the progression towards or deviance from the objective to be attained, consequently modifying the perception as well as the actions of those responsible for ensuring occupational health and safety and reducing the observed deviation.
Having an objective description that provides preventive measures is all the more important today in the field of occupational health and safety, since the participants are often under emotional stress and are not in a position to calmly analyze the situation, thus favoring hasty and subjective judgments and forming hasty opinions in a conflicting and accusatory environment.
However, numerical indicators have an objective importance if they are precise, clear, recognized and circulated, and if their method of production is validated, compliant and simple. The health and safety status indicator should be uniform over time, consistent with other indicators so as to obtain well-monitored significant ratios that avoid deviation. The choice of indicators is a mutual decision that is taken based on a consensus between prevention specialists, health and safety committee experts, human resources, supervision and management.
Only in these conditions can the indicators successfully promote the exchange of different points of view among the company managers, the salaried staff and their representatives, and occupational health professionals, and thus help to initiate actions in the right direction: through analysis and interpretation of indicators, a sense of measurement can be obtained, and the useful indicator can be used to initiate action.
To design this tracking report, it is important for the organization to select some indicators that are relevant to its activities instead of creating a cumbersome statistical apparatus that is inefficient over time: it is absolutely necessary to avoid analytical deviation and the administrative stagnation that results from it, that also reduces the reliability of the entire system and diminishes the motivation and adherence of teams (errors, faulty and irregular entries, partial and late updates, etc.).
Tracking reports for each sector and a consolidated summary for the Organization are developed from the various operational performance indicators (number of working days lost, number of first-aid interventions, frequency rate, severity rate, etc.) and from system performance (percentage of people undergoing OH&S training, percentage of preventive actions achieved, degree of progression of plans of action or of delays in relation to the scheduled time frame, percentage of OH&S investments made, etc.). Other factors stem from human resources that are related to unpleasant working conditions (absenteeism, turnover, number of complaints, etc.).
Derived from reports of occupational accidents and diseases, the number of occupational accidents is the most commonly calculated value. However this value in itself has very little significance: does a dip in this value means an improvement, if at the same time there is a reduction in staff numbers? What if this number includes a higher number of severe accidents? It is therefore essential to calculate ratios that correlate this number with other parameters, thus enabling a better estimation of the situation. For example:
Number of accidents with sick leave of more than one day occurring during the annual period for every 200,000 hours or 1,000,000 man hours worked (taking into account only occupational accidents that require treatment beyond a first-aid intervention).
Number of days compensated for every 200,000 or 1,000,000 man hours worked.
In order to be relevant and to allow targeted action, these indicators should be determined based on narrow segmentation: status (full time or part time), gender (men/women), age group, type of accidents (noise, musculoskeletal disorder, respiratory disorders) etc. Such segmentation helps to take into account variabilities, since the same working environment can have different effects, and it helps to detect “risk” groups that require special preventive measures.
We can distinguish between reactive indicators that are used to analyze OHS data and proactive indicators that are used as monitors to ensure that anticipatory actions are carried out (examples: number of medical visits prior to resuming work, sampling of ambient air, noise measurements, OHS training initiatives, etc.).
Trending indicators help to keep a record of, for example, the change in the number of occupational accidents and diseases over the years, within the same Organization, by calculating the rate of progression from one year to another, or on an average over several years.
These indicators show to what extent the OHS objectives have been attained, by calculating the difference in the results, in relation to the objectives set by the action plans (originating especially from plans focused on the improvement of working conditions). For example, if the objective is to reduce the frequency of occupational accidents by 10% per annum, and if such accidents have only reduced by 7%, then the difference is of 3%.
These indicators present corresponding data of other organizations, significant or comparable divisions, or departments and the deviations (benchmarking). These indicators enable nuanced approaches that direct actions towards real priorities. They are not biased by a narrow local vision. The use of these comparisons is, however, tricky due to the possible diversity of measurements among several organizations. Only the important differences are thus significant.
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