Occupational Health’s Need for Safety Data Shows the Health & Safety Overlap

The Importance of Safety Data for Occupational Health
Like most things in business, workplace health and safety can be analyzed in terms of its cost or benefit. Safety managers and HR departments both need to demonstrate safety as a business value. Often, safety activities are viewed as a cost or overhead. An injury is a cost with no financial return or benefit to the company. Safety training—preventing those costly injuries and incidents—is an investment with a value-added return and benefit to the company.

Why does a Safety or HR manager need data related to occupational health?
Leadership needs to know from Safety and HR the future benefits and the future risk of loss when they evaluate and prioritize the performance of all business activity. Safety professionals need data that can measure performance in a way that directly speaks to the business case. Tracking safety training compliance is an important set of data that helps do just that.

Safety and HR Managers need to be able capture data to identify trends. They need to know the most often occurring type of employee injuries: types of occupational injuries, illnesses, slip, trips, falls, and vehicle collisions. Is there an employee group that has more incidents than others? A shift or time of day that is more dangerous? Can trending the data help determine the root cause of incidents?

In addition to incident data, training data, safety inspections, and audits are also OSHA compliance requirements. Employers are required to track and record employee injuries on the OSHA recordkeeping logs. Almost all states require that the employer file a First Report of Injury for any worker’s compensation claim. Employers with multiple locations need to be able to generate OSHA logs for each location.

What data should a Safety or HR manager evaluate and what story should the data tell?
There are a number of Key Safety Performance Indicators (KPIs) that are good measures of safety performance, such as reportable incidents, loss time injuries, and audit findings. The KPIs need to tell the story of root cause and causal factors that lead to workplace injuries. The data that Safety managers want to measure are Leading Indicators and Lagging Indicators.

Leading indicators are measurements of data that have some value in predicting an undesirable event such as accidents or near misses. The data from Leading Indicators are obtained from: safety training, employee safety perception surveys, safety audits, reduction in MSD risk factors and ergonomic opportunities identified and documented correction.

Lagging Indicators are measurements of data to assess outcomes such as accident and injury rates and costs associated with work-related accidents and illnesses. The data from Leading Indicators are obtained from: OSHA recordability, injury frequency and severity, lost work days and Worker’s Compensation costs.

Measuring Leading and Lagging Indicators can provide employers with crucial data about a wide range of issues:

  • Number of reportable accidents
  • Lost time due to accidents
  • Number of reportable fatalities
  • Noncompliance with standards in safety inspections
  • Number of safety inspections per month
  • Percentage of corrective actions completed within specified time-frame
  • Percentage of issues raised by employees that were actioned
  • Percentage of safety committee recommendations implemented
  • Percentage of products or services assessed for health & safety impacts
  • Employee perception of management commitment
  • Health and safety prevention costs within the month
  • Total of hours in safety and health training in the month

We’ve made the case for data. The next blog in the series will give you some tips on how to determine which data you need, and how to collect them.