Measuring Performance – How do we measure health and safety performance?

Just as in the previous examples, we have two ways of getting information about health and safety performance – proactive and reactive measurement.

Proactive measurement

This type of measurement is about providing information on how well you’re managing health and safety before undesired events such as incidents and ill-health, happen.  To measure health and safety performance proactively, you’ll need to look at the things (inputs) that contribute to effective health and safety management.  For example:

  • your work environment and equipment
  • safe systems of work and procedures
  • people – employees and contractors.

You’ll also need to find ways of measuring these inputs.

For example, carrying out workplace inspections can help us check that work equipment is in good working order and the work environment is okay.  It also gives us the chance to deal with any problems before they cause an incident.  So, measuring the number of complete workplace inspections against the number planned provides a useful indicator of how well we’re managing health and safety.

Similarly, giving people training helps them to do their jobs safely, so measuring how much training your staff are getting is another indicator of how well you’re managing health and safety.

Additionally you check the compliance of personal protective equipment requirements and measure the number of incidents where PPE hasn’t been worn which could result in a number of incidents and ill health.

Remember, there’s no ‘one size fits all’ – different organisations will need different indicators.

Good indicators are:

  • objective and easy to measure and collect
  • relevant to the organisation or group whose performance you’re measuring
  • able to provide prompt and reliable indications of the level of performance
  • cost-effective in terms of the effort needed to gather the information
  • understood and owned by the organisation or group whose performance you’re measuring.
Reactive measurement

This focuses on collecting information on the outcomes of our health and safety management system, including:

  • incidents
  • ill health
  • the absence of these negative events
  • the number of days without an incident.

However, don’t forget to also measure the successes – for example:

  • inspections
  • near miss reporting
  • health and safety culture
  • training achievements
  • good housekeeping
  • following the correct procedures.

By looking at the successes of the organisation you’ll be able to report on the positive and not always just the failures, giving you confidence that what you’re doing is working.

You can calculate your organisation’s injury incidence rate as follows;

This is useful for comparing your performance year on year and for measuring your performance against national statistics for your sector – you can get this information from the enforcing authority.  Analysis of this type of information is useful in identifying trends – for example, what types of incidents are happening and how serious they are.

However, gathering information about incidents and ill health does have limitations.

There are different ways to measure, including:

  • direct observations of conditions and behaviours
  • gathering information using questionnaires
  • meetings and reviews
  • facts and figures
  • examining written documents
  • records and reports.

By using tools to measure performance like the safety pyramid and the iceberg principle you can see how important it is to measure health and safety.  Improvements will be highlighted and the benefits of measuring health and safety will lead to being more productive and also being more cost effective.

The safety pyramid

The safety pyramid shows the ratio of:

  • near misses
  • incidents of property damage
  • number of minor incidents
  • number of serious incidents.

This can be used to capture improvements to help prevent more serious incidents happening.

Measuring performance, to a business, is usually about percentage profit, return on investment or market share.  In health and safety, many people think it’s just about looking at incident and ill health data and trying to find out what they can do to measure it.

If measurement is not carried out correctly, the effectiveness of the health and safety management system can be undermined.  This means there will be no reliable information to inform managers how well health and safety risks are controlled and to allow them to make decisions relating to health and safety management.

The outcome of measuring health and safety performance will give you confidence that you are doing enough to keep on top of health and safety and show you how you can do it better in the future.

The iceberg principle

Workplace incidents are a huge cost to businesses all over the world.  organisations that implement robust and effective safety and health management systems have significantly reduced injuries and illnesses and, costs associated with these are reduced too.  This includes incident investigations, compensation payments and medical expenses, replacement of machinery and man power and lost productivity.

This includes:

  • incident investigations
  • compensation payments
  • medical expenses
  • replacement of machinery and man power
  • lost productivity.

also looking at the iceberg principle example; having measures in place will enable organisations to look at the bigger picture of health and safety.  The cost of an error far exceeds those that would have been incurred if a system had been implemented from the start.

When examining your procedures, the iceberg principle shows how making real improvements can make things better.

Find out what performance indicators are used in your organisation.

Did you know…?

A study by the International Social Security Association (ISSA) estimated that for every euro invested in occupational safety and health, there is a return of 2.2 euros (ISSA 2013)