The Future of Health and Safety Metrics
Updated: Jan 31, 2022
Health and Safety professionals across the world measure key EHS / HSE metrics and KPIs.
These metrics have increasingly become standardized, allowing the ability to compare across sites and companies and perform benchmarking. The standard Health and Safety metrics served (and still serve) us well yet leave emerging challenges unaddressed.
Why do we need to rethink EHS metrics?
Worldwide health and safety standards have substantially improved in the last three decades. For example, UK Health and Safety Executive reports that in the manufacturing sector alone, Fatal Injury rate per 100,000 workers reduced over 2/3rds and non-Fatal injury rate per 100,000 workers reduced by over half since the year 2000. But these numbers are starting to flatline. In the UK manufacturing sector alone, 66000 workers reported work related injuries and 85,000 workers reported work related ill health cases in 2019/2020. Worldwide numbers are likely to be astronomical. We can only improve what we measure, and we are probably missing out on measuring important health and safety metrics. Else we won’t see the flat trend in injuries and ill health.
What are the traditional metrics?
Manufacturers with a good Health and Safety foundation measure the below traditional metrics
Number of First aid cases, Near misses / Close calls, Lost-Time Incidents (or Lost Workday Cases), Total Case Incidents / Total Recordable Incidents
The above important metrics when normalised for a company of certain size over a certain period derive ‘Rates’ that allow comparison across operations. Companies therefore measure
Near miss / Close call Rate, Lost-Time Incident Rate, Total Case Incident Rate (or) Total Recordable Incident Rate and Injury frequency rate
Increasingly organisations are measuring Days away, restricted work and job transfer rates (DART) to understand the impact of injury or illness
The most common positive metric is ‘Number of days since the last lost time incident’. While the calculations, definitions and formulas vary slightly from company to company, the above metrics help track how a factory or a site is performing on its Health and Safety outcomes. In Safety Qube, a cutting-edge Health and Safety software we have built, these metrics and associated trends are automatically calculated.
What is the problem with the above metrics?
There are no problems, but there are critical gaps.
Companies don’t fully understand what drives these numbers and why the numbers are the way they are. The above traditional metrics are lagging indicators and not leading indicators of EHS effectiveness
The measures largely focus on numbers and rates but not on the impact the illnesses and injuries have had on both the employees and the business
They ignore the softer elements and measures relating to individual and team accountability that are critical to building a health and safety focused culture
The traditional measures are not comprehensive. A composite measure that takes in account the inputs, robustness of processes and behaviours, outcomes and softer elements is lacking
They don’t address sufficiently the health and safety issues on the rise across the industry like musko-skeletal disorders, stress, anxiety, depression, overwork and other mental health issues
The metrics don’t measure leadership behaviours, commitment and performance with regards to health and safety of employees
They ignore the product and process safety issues caused at the customer end, as these typically get identified as quality problems
We aim to publish a series of articles / blogs in the future that will discuss and help address the gaps. As we continue to evolve our EHS software Safety Qube, we aim to address the above within our product too. We welcome your point of view. Write to us at SQ@qubertech.com
Companies need to measure what matters and the right actions usually follow that. Only then the aspiration of ‘Zero Incidents’ can become a reality.