Todd Jerome Jenkins, MS, CSP, SMS, ASP, CHST, STSC

Safety Aficionado & Ph.D. Student

A Review of Leading Measures for Safety Performance: Enhance Your Organization’s Culture


This ASSP conference paper discusses the issues with measuring lagging safety performance indicators and the need to customize leading safety performance indicators. The author presents criteria, methods, and industry-specific examples for selecting leading indicators.


The author begins with the problem statement, measuring safety performance indicators that do not impact improvement. The primary issue is the emphasis on lagging indicators, e.g., TRIR and DART. Referencing the ANSI Z10 framework, a mixed method for monitoring, measurement, and assessment performance. “Leading indicators measure the activities, behaviors, and processes, the things people are doing for safety, and not simply the safety-related failures typically tracked by trailing measures” (p1). The author continues with several strategies for identifying safety performance indicators that aid in safety performance improvement planning.

The author discusses the importance of understanding that no one set of safety performance indicators fits every organization. Further, safety performance indicators should be developed and improved on a case-by-case basis. To set the tone of the discussion, the author identified the importance of identifying the right mix of leading and lagging indicators as crucial to promoting improvements in the system. It is suggested that leading and lagging indicators are selected at an 80/20 split in favor of leading indicators. According to experts cited, culture should be the driver of safety performance. Safety performance indicators should be focused on continually improving the culture. Effective safety performance indicators are useful as a catalyst for change, a motivational tool, and drive performance.

Choosing leading safety performance indicators should drive specific behaviors and activities. Individuals should be evaluated and rewarded based on the metrics. A robust metric process:

  1. Include them in employee evaluations
  2. Include them in management and supervisions’ evaluations
  3. Ensure the operating line implements and follows up on the metrics

” (p3).

Picking the right metrics is both an art and science. Safety performance indicator selection should be emphasized on existing hazards, risk levels, and historical data (all incident data including near hit (near miss) and injuries). Leading indicators should include steps every employee regularly takes to control, reduce, and eliminate exposures to hazards. Including the steps, management regularly supports a positive “safety” culture. The intent is to monitor, measure and assess elements of the system that influence culture. The author references the ANSI Z10 standards selection criteria. A basic guideline for selecting safety metrics is using OSHA’s VPP guidelines. Metrics should measure:

  1. Management Commitment and Employee Involvement are Complementary
  2. Worksite Analysis
  3. Hazard Prevention and Control
  4. Safety & Health Training

” (p4).

Anecdotally a reference is made that monitoring, measuring, and assessing are more impactful to culture than auditing before offering a view of the effectiveness of perception surveys. An assertion is made that perception surveys are beneficial as a snapshot as long as they are practical, predictive, prescriptive, and proactive. “Safety climate perception surveys can 1) Identify safety trends, 2) Enable an organization to focus on the most problematic areas, 3) Serve as a leading indicator of safety performance, and 4) Establish a baseline for future measurements” (p5).

Before providing examples in the construction and industrial sectors, the author briefly discusses Fred Manuele’s formula from Advanced Safety Management as a technique for measuring risk and selecting leading indicators. The author concludes by suggesting that the most effective safety performance indicators are customized, prioritized, simplified, engaged, and mixed (leading and lagging).


Earl Blair, Ed.D., CSP



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