WORKPLACE HEALTH & SAFETY
UL developed a safety scorecard uniquely combining leading and lagging indicators to help companies better prevent workplace injuries and illnesses.
WHY THE SCORECARD MATTERS
There is growing recognition among businesses regarding the impact that workplace safety and health management can have on organizational productivity, employee well-being and morale, risk management, and operational costs.1 Given this trend, it is not surprising that companies are increasingly seeking to measure the performance of their health and safety efforts.2 Unfortunately, most systems available today assess only what has already happened, helping organizations understand the impact to their business and fostering a one-dimensional focus on corrective actions. To achieve more significant outcomes, companies do not only need to measure the impact of what happened; they need metrics to help them identify and understand potential issues and to shift to a more preventive approach to mitigating the risks of workplace injuries and illnesses.3
To help measure the effectiveness and return on investment of their health and safety programs, more companies are turning to safety scorecards. These tools were developed to make it easier for health and safety professionals to use data and metrics to measure the success of their initiatives and to bring visibility on how they are performing.4 The issue with existing scorecards is that the measures they include are typically limited to lagging indicators.5
Lagging indicators — including injury rates, the number of injuries and illnesses, workers’ compensation costs, performance against benchmarks (e.g., reduce injuries by 10% over the previous year) — are an important part of an effective safety scorecard. However, these measures focus on the past and what’s already happened. They do not reflect the company’s current strength or potential flaws.6 Low incidence rates are an admirable achievement, but they do not always mean that potential health and safety hazards are being effectively mitigated. Failure to actively seek out and take preventive actions to address emerging issues may have little visible impact at first, but over time this can lead to conditions that result in serious accidents or catastrophic events.7
WHAT DID UL DO?
We were not satisfied with the safety results generated by the prevailing scorecard convention of quantifying only the impact of past events through lagging indicators. With the goal of helping companies ensure the well-being of their workers, UL asked the question, “Which indicators should safety and health professionals be examining?” Specifically, we wanted to identify the measures that would help companies better understand and measure risk and be proactive in reducing or eliminating as many workplace injuries, illnesses and fatalities as possible. Through our experience, we understood that lagging indicator scorecards and the reactive approach they foster could not, for example:
- Indicate the percentage of employees submitting observations and near misses (i.e., warning signs of injuries about to happen or that almost happened)
- Determine the percentage of corrective actions — from observation and near-miss reporting — completed in less than 48 hours, thereby preventing future occurrence
- Give insight into how many investigations were completed in a 48-hour time period after an incident occurred
- Provide the “find/fix” ratio to offer visibility into how effectively an organization addresses the potential issues that have been identified
- Interpret how employees perceive and classify reported hazards
- Show trends or patterns in the causes of incidents
- Indicate new potential threats or issues
- Monitor the effectiveness of health and safety training8
UL’s expertise in implementing safety best practices and measuring the results strongly suggested that leading indicators would be the most likely to predict future incidents because they focus on the conditions that create health and safety risks.9 To develop an optimized set of indicators, UL’s safety experts studied the occupational health and safety literature to account for as many emerging risks as possible. We also met with clients to identify the indicators they were currently using, the ones they were considering and those they wished they could measure. This process yielded a comprehensive list of indicators, which were then refined based on our surveying of companies for feedback. We have created the most extensive set of measurable indicators that have a direct correlation with health and safety outcomes.10 We now enable organizations to monitor an entirely new set of metrics that were not previously available to them.
We innovated a safety scorecard — delivered as a SaaS (software as a service) or “private cloud” solution11 — that uniquely encompasses these leading and lagging indicators to help organizations become more prevention-oriented to optimize their safety and health performance. The lagging indicators focus on benchmarking performance (e.g., number of inspections/audits completed, percentage of compliant/safe conditions, percentage of employees trained, etc.) in an ongoing way. Complementing this, the leading indicators align with steps and processes designed to prevent loss and, as part of safety analytics, have the added value of enabling prediction that the probability of an incident or accident will happen if issues are not addressed. They make it possible to take more proactive preventive actions to correct problems before they show up in lagging indicators.12 In addition, our scorecard allows many indicators to be captured in real time, enabling organizations to take immediate action.13
The UL team of safety practitioners and researchers has identified and codified three of the most important leading indicators that show a strong correlation with outcome (losses):
- The number of people contributing to the process(inspections, near-miss and observation reporting): We have found that engaging and participating ultimately fosters prevention and leads to better results if and when the company acts on the information being reported. We recommend that organizations evolve their programs to allow for and support reporting of observations of both safe and at-risk conditions. Our research has found that best-in-class companies have at least one observation reported by each employee every week.
- Amount of time before open issues are closed: Most organizations have difficulty discerning whether issues identified on inspections or submitted as near misses have been satisfactorily resolved and closed. The most effective businesses not only know what issues have been closed but also, more importantly, set benchmarks on the amount of time they are open, and hold themselves accountable for closure in a timely manner. We consider it a best-practice benchmark to close issues within 48 hours of reporting 80% of the time.
- Establish a severity rating for those conditions requiring attention: Most at-risk conditions reported are simply that — something noncompliant deficient and requires attention. The simplest severity rating would include identifying the frequency of occurrence and the severity of the injury that would occur if not corrected. Establishing severity ratings and applying them when at-risk conditions are identified allows a business to provide some level of objectivity to effectively prevent incidents by focusing attention and resources on those conditions and situations that have the highest potential for loss.14
Our scorecard was designed to foster early intervention through the reporting of observations and near misses along with learning from incidents and thus informing meaningful discussion within an organization to drives both preventive and corrective actions. To do this, we blended key leading and lagging indicators and made information critical to effective safety and health programs visible to all. We vetted our safety scorecard with early-adopter clients to ensure that it helps businesses more effectively understand, measure and reduce risk.15
UL works with organizations to create safety scorecards that uniquely incorporate both lagging and leading indicators. To help ensure that a company measures what will enable it to shift from a corrective to a preventive focus to improve its health and safety performance, we work with the company to tailor a scorecard to include metrics that:
- Align with its goals
- Are attainable and easy to measure, providing immediate insight into whether desired outcomes are being achieved
- Have buy-in and support at all levels in the company
- Help drive future performance16
Providing visibility through the right blend of metrics maximizes the utilization of both time and resources by helping managers more effectively prioritize when and where to act. The insights our scorecard is designed to provide help improve health and safety performance while reducing a company’s safety risks and costs.17 At UL, we understand that the only acceptable injury, illness or fatality is one that doesn’t happen.