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How can we better measure our safety culture?

Today, environmental, health and safety professionals have more data than ever before. But what use is this data if you can’t leverage it to drive continuous improvement? The right tools are necessary to accurately capture root causes and trends and, in turn, impact safety performance.

Improving your organization’s safety performance is a team effort that starts with a number of metrics that can be monitored and measured to understand where your initiatives will have the most impact. It’s confirming or discovering which situations and human factors could elevate risk among your workers. But in a world with so many options and so much data, how do you get started with a new safety analytics program?

Here are four steps to help you:

  1. Centralize and cleanse your data

Begin by identifying and collecting all unused data in a single system, and ensuring it is, in fact, “clean” – meaning it’s complete and accurate. Several data analytics and business intelligence solutions are available that make it easy to visualize and understand safety outcomes and potential issues. Centralizing and cleansing your data and then leveraging these kinds of tools will enable you to proactively identify risks so you can plan targeted interventions and correctly allocate your safety spend.

  1. Integrate information

After you’ve consolidated and centralized your EHS data, the next step is to integrate it with other information sources to gain a complete 360-degree view of your safety processes. This can include information from your equipment maintenance systems, enterprise resource planning systems or other third-party information such as weather reports. Once integrated, you can start to use predictive modeling to compare data between leading and lagging indicators to ensure better outcomes in the future.

  1. Engage from shop floor to C-suite

For any new initiative to be successful, it needs to be backed by a commitment from management, and frontline employees need to buy into your program and be actively engaged. If employees aren’t engaged, they won’t participate in your programs, and a lack of participation ultimately impacts the frequency and quality of inspections, audits and other key EHS data entering your system.

  1. Identify metrics and measure your culture

Safety culture can be difficult to measure but can provide a baseline model for how your organization is performing and what leading indicators are impacting workplace safety. How an EHS department measures safety culture will be different across organizations and industries, but here are some general metrics you can begin tracking today:

Management commitment

Best practice is to dedicate 60% of the key performance indicators to this function. Data points you can measure:

  • Requested vs. actual budget
  • Employee hours spent on safety prevention
  • Funding for tools to carry out the safety program
  • Marketing support for safety programs

Employee engagement

Best practice is to dedicate 30% of the KPIs to this function. Data points you can measure:

  • Ratio of employee hours to worked hours
  • Pass rate of training competency evaluations
  • Number of observations and safety suggestions submitted
  • Training effectiveness results from feedback surveys

Safety management systems

Best practice is to dedicate 10% of the KPIs to this function. Data points you can measure:

  • Inspection scores
  • Audit scores
  • Percent of action completion
  • Percent of safety procedures reviewed

Because safety culture and performance have such a critical impact on your operations, the time to introduce these metrics is now. In terms of next steps, start with the data that is readily available. You can then work toward defining a safety culture index that creates a baseline score, and introduce changes to provide the impact to the program.

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