Leading vs. Lagging Indicators: Why Not Track Both?

Author: Rene Garcia


In the health and safety community, a lively discussion continues around the value of leading and lagging indicators. Which indicators should organizations track to optimize safety performance for themselves and their suppliers?

Leading and Lagging Indicators Defined

Lagging indicators track an organization’s past accident statistics. This can include the number of injuries, how often injuries occur, how severe injuries are, lost workdays, worker’s compensation costs, and more. Lagging indicators typically evaluate the overall effectiveness of an organization’s health and safety practices.

Since lagging indicators occur after a safety incident has occurred, tracking these indicators and making changes based on them is purely reactionary. As such, lagging indicators are not ideal for gauging the efficacy of preventative measures. There is also a valid concern that positive lagging indicators, like a low injury rate, can make an organization complacent, further ensuring that an injury will take place in the future.

Leading indicators are measures predicated on a future event that an organization wants to avoid. These indicators can include safety training, employee perception surveys, safety audits, and more. Many organizations prefer to track leading indicators because they are focused on continued safety performance to prevent an injury or disruption. As such, organizations remain proactive.

One company that uses leading indicators is Caterpillar. According to their executives, “… traditional metrics can help companies tell the score at the end of the game, but they don’t help employers understand the strengths and weaknesses of their safety efforts and cannot help managers predict future success.” But does that mean there is no place for lagging indicators?

Value in Tracking Both Leading and Lagging Indicators

Every supplier, contractor, and vendor has a history, and it is vital to know it before partnering with them. Sooner or later, someone will get hurt on the job; there’s no reason not track that information just because it’s not as useful for preventing injuries. Fortunately, Avetta understands the benefit of capturing these lagging indicators in order to have a complete picture of a potential supply chain partner. Through Avetta’s Prequalification Document Management, organizations have a single location to store all safety-related statistics and documentation, have the ability to track multiple years and verify the data, and be able to update the data annually for accuracy.

Similarly, Avetta also understands why leading indicators are highly valued. They are better predictors of health and safety performance. They measure the presence of safety practices instead of the absence of injury. And they hold the organization accountable for preventing injury and illness.

Via Avetta’s Supplier Auditing and Supplier Employee Qualification & Training services, best practices are implemented. Avetta acts as a third-party auditing service that will review safety manuals and establish a schedule for auditing both work sites, documentation, and training. With Avetta, wherever you are in the supply chain, you can optimize safety performance by making more intelligent, risk based decisions. Get started with Avetta today!

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