Water Well Journal

January 2017

Water Well Journal

Issue link: https://read.dmtmag.com/i/767379

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Page 39 of 63

H ow an organization or business measures performance undoubtedly influences its behavior. But measuring safety is difficult because it is hard to predict the impact new safety metrics will have on individual behavior, attitudes, and the overall safety climate. Regardless how difficult it is to measure, a firm's safety performance needs to be measured. Without measurement, accountability becomes meaningless. But before various measurement systems are devised, their purpose and limitations need to be thoroughly understood. This two-part series, the second half of which will appear in the February issue of Water Well Journal, describes different types of safety performance measures and their benefits and limitations. Metric Categories There are many ways to classify safety performance meas- ures—with trailing or leading indicators, outcome or process oriented, results or activity-based measures, downstream or upstream factors, and qualitative or quantitative metrics. For the sake of simplicity, the safety metrics described in this series are classified as outcome or process oriented. Outcome performance measures are "after the fact." The activity occurs and the outcome is measured. Two common examples of outcome metrics are injury/illness rates and workers' compensation claims data. Process-oriented performance measures, on the other hand, are those measures indicating an action or activities per- formed. Ideally, process measures should be linked—and statistically validated—to outcome metrics, but this is rarely done. As a result, process metrics do not necessarily predict a program's outcome, but rather, indicate the extent to which an activity or process has been implemented (Janicak 2003). In general, there is no single reliable measure of safety and health performance. Instead, a mixture of both outcome- oriented and process-oriented measures are needed to effec- tively evaluate performance. Furthermore, the types of metrics used should be different for evaluating different levels of the organization or business. Safety pioneer Dan Petersen suggested that only process- oriented metrics be used at the lower managerial levels and activity measures (with some outcome measures) primarily used for the middle-upper management levels. Pure outcome measures should be reserved for the executive level (Petersen 1996). He added ideally the metrics should be integrated and linked to the overall vision, goals, and objectives of the company. Outcome-Oriented Measures Injury/Illness Rates While occupational safety and health performance is often measured with injury/illness rates and workers' compensation claims data, the most common outcome metrics are based on injury/illness rates such as the OSHA recordable incident rate. The OSHA recordable incident rate is an outcome metric measuring the number of employees per 100 workers who have sustained an OSHA recordable injury or illness. The ben- efit of using injury/illness statistics as a safety performance metric are they are easy to use and injury/illness data are readily available. Plus, OSHA recordable rates by SIC codes (Standard In- dustrial Classification) are published annually by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. This allows companies to compare their injury/illness rates to their respective industry average. There are many limitations, though, with using injury/ill- ness rates as a primary performance indicator. 1. Injury/illness rates are inherently linked to bad news. Emphasizing these rates typically rewards employees too much for not reporting injuries or illnesses, thus preventing the root causes of problems to be properly investigated and corrected. This is potentially the most significant limitation. 2. There can be considerable variations in interpreting and applying OSHA recordkeeping guidelines. Therefore, generalizing the OSHA log information from one com- pany to another is questionable because of the various reporting techniques between workplaces. 3. OSHA rates, to a large extent, depend on the medical treatment given to the injured employee. OSHA rates can be influenced by how a company manages the medical treatment received. The medical community is inconsistent in treating injuries. SAFETY MATTERS MEASURING SAFETY AND HEALTH PERFORMANCE Part 1: A review of commonly used performance indicators. JEROME E. SPEAR A firm's safety performance needs to be measured. Without measurement, accountability becomes meaningless . waterwelljournal.com 38 January 2017 WWJ

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