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CLF BLOG: Practical Tools for Developing Leading Indicators to Measure Business Safety

The Practical Tools for Developing Leading Indicators to Measure Business Safety workshop will explore ways to measure and evaluate safety programs.

The Practical Tools for Developing Leading Indicators to Measure Business Safety workshop was presented by Jeff Kellner with Tervita at the Vancouver Regional Construction Association's Construction Learning Forum on May 23.

Workshop description: How do you know that what you are using to measure safety is suitable for your company? Learn how to distinguish between a good safety measure and a poor safety measure and how to evaluate your safety program.

Kellner started his presentation by discussing the leading indicators and the difference between them and lagging indicators.

Lagging indicators measure the outcomes that have resulted from past actions.

Leading indicators provide information about the current situation that allow us to take actions that will influence the future.

He also discussed what makes a good leading indicator:

Leading indicators focus on the number of incidents, where "luck" was the deciding factor.

The act of collecting and monitoring leading indicators will not, in itself, cause improvements, he cautioned.

Keep it simple, relevant, cost efficient and related to where there is a chance for improvement.

It's not counting the numbers that's important, it's the quality of the content,he said.

"We have to take the luck out of safety," he said. "Luck is going to run out."

But, people must remain engaged.

"If we make it too complicated, we will lose people," he added.

"There is always a means to improve the (safety) performance of our people," Kellner said.

Kellner is now showing a practical example of a list of leading indicators. It's a document that's used throughout his company.

It's filled out by workers, not supervisors, when they discover an issue. They take a photo of issue and send it along.

When the form is filled out by a worker, the follow up includes a time frame to fix the identified problem, who needs to fix it and what the corrective action needs to be.

The identified problems are either fixed immediately, within 24 hours or within 7 days, depending on urgency and severity.

The entire process is monitored, and the information is disseminated and shared throughout the company.

"If you don't believe in it, it's not going to work," he said, adding that those in positions of authority also need to buy in.

How do you know what is a hazard? he asked. He said it's getting back to basics, but it's important.

He said there are huge differences between crews that have had hazard management training and those that haven't.

He moved on to sustaining the safety performance.

Kellner said that there needs to be an emphasis on tangible performance measures and ways to celebrate team and organizational performance (successes).

He also said that to build a healthy workplace, these efforts must be sustained over time and that historical improvement shows a return on investment in safety.

Kellner said that companies need to give real rewards for real safety advances. He added that it doesn't necessarily need to be huge financial reward, but a tangible gift of appreciation.

His company keeps a safety binder, with all past improvements and how to report hazards, and it's taken to every single worksite.

"Everybody has the some paperwork from here to Nova Scotia," he said.

Kellner asked about the metrics that people use to measure safety and safety improvements. He added that most companies will use a combination of leading and lagging indicators, which is great.

He brought up four questions that every company should be asking themselves:

What are the main threats to my business safety.

How will I measure?

How will I know if I was successful?

Waht will I do with the information I have?

Answering these questions will help any construction company set themselves onto the path to a sustainable safety culture.

The Vancouver Regional Construction Association's 3rd Annual Construction Learning Forum is taking place in Whistler, B.C. The two-day conference includes workshops on productivity, business development and safety.

Keep checking the Journal of Commerce for blogs from the conference.


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