One way companies may figure out whether they’re doing their best to mitigate risks and provide quality worker safety is with a process that EHS Today calls looking for the “true north.” This means looking at two different sets of statistics: leading indicators and lagging indicators. Leading indicators present facts about what a company now is doing to prevent risk, while lagging indicators show how well a company has succeeded in its plans, and whether the plans are good ones.
Ultimately, no matter what kind of approach a company takes to safety, the process is circular. A business adopts a new strategy based upon sound research, and then it has people implement the strategy, followed by leaders and safety mentors educating workers about how to follow the new protocols. This is the leading half of the process because it is rooted in research and based upon what the company is doing. The second half is about looking at what happens after the new safety strategy has been implemented. This means examining metrics such as the nature of the most common accident that takes place, followed by how well people are following the safety protocols. It is circular because the lagging metrics feed into new research, which then gets put into an idea for implementing safety differently from before.
EHS Today emphasizes that the only really important indicators are the ones that may result in something actionable. For example, if the new coating on a floor has prevented falls in one part of the building, then an employer may consider using it in other parts of the worksite. Or if a new machine is being used improperly, then further education must be considered for workers who use that device frequently.
The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) offers guidelines for what it calls non-mandatory compliance – things that help make a workplace safer, but are not regulated. Best practices for assessing hazards are examples of rules that aren’t mandatory but employers who want to protect workers from injuries may wish to follow OSHA’s advice.
Essentially, the guidelines stress that personal protection equipment (PPE) is never enough to prevent injuries. In best practices, workers are advised to use these tools in conjunction with safety guards, engineering controls and other preventative devices to stay safe.
Keeping PPE and any other precautions in mind, an employer may consider assessing whether a piece of equipment or procedure could cause hazards relating to the following: impact, penetration, compression, chemical hazards, heat and radiation. After determining if any of the above dangers exist, employers may want to establish a protocol for avoiding such risks through the application of safety best practices designed in accordance with similar machines or procedures that already are in use in the workplace.