The Ultimate Guide to Safety Reporting & KPIs

Safety reports are an important part of your job. They provide an overview of what’s happening in your department, your impact on the organization, and help you strengthen your safety program. Your reports are as unique as your company: they depend heavily on industry, organization, and the program you designed. However, there are new opportunities in safety reporting available to any safety program that invests in both engagement and technology.

Are you new to safety reporting or looking to revamp your existing program? Use this guide to create actionable reports based on meaningful KPIs derived directly from your daily safety tasks.

What is Safety Reporting?

Safety reporting is an evidence-based method of assessing the strengths and weaknesses of your safety program. Safety teams use safety reporting to ensure that they capture as much information as possible on safety-related events and compile it into a readable format that informs key stakeholders.  

Reporting goes far beyond incident and injury reporting. With a strong safety reporting program, you can identify, collect, collate, and analyze all core safety-related information. Using more data will empower you to make proactive changes and implement targeted changes where you need them most.   However, to create valuable reports that generate actionable insights and assessments, you need to choose the right safety KPIs.

Safety key performance indicators (aka KPIs) are measurements of the different parts and processes of your safety program.

You already know and track at least a few KPIs because OSHA and workers compensation carriers require you to do so. Yet, you could be missing out: many organizations don’t track anything beyond OSHA data, like lost-time and incidence rate. KPIs don’t just measure workplace incidents and injuries. Used correctly, your KPIs can help you prevent them.

Why Develop Safety KPIs?

You already have so much data: inspections, observations, training, and incident data. Why do you need KPIs? Like the name says, KPIs indicate your process and practice performance. They’re a measure of how well your controls and barriers prevent incidents and how effectively your mitigation measures prevent incident or injury escalation. KPIs are a great way to focus your attention on areas prioritized for improvement. However, you also need to know when to reign your KPI use in.

Remember: your role as a  safety professional is to manage the process — not the KPI itself. So, don’t get so hung up on a KPI that you miss the big picture.

5 Things You Need to Start Benefitting from Safety KPIs

So you’re ready to start taking the reigns of your processes and procedures through actionable performance measurement. Before you choose your KPIs, you need a solid foundation in place that will help you not only secure the time and resources needed for KPI measurement but also help you collect the data behind the KPIs.  You are ready for a KPI-focused safety program when you have all of the following:

  • Leadership support
  • Data collection program
  • Process for implementing controls
  • General labor involvement
  • Individual and supervisory ownership

Support from Senior/Executive Management

As with any change to your safety program, you need support from senior and executive management. Their go-ahead gives you the acceptance and resources needed to create a more comprehensive safety measurement program. And their buy-in means you have a willing audience to share the new insights with.

However, given the nature of KPIs and the resources required to start and maintain a program, you need more than the greenlight. To collect, maintain, and make sense of data, you will need a means of data management, usually in the form of safety management software. And you can’t implement this kind of technology without buy-in from every single level, from senior management to the workforce.

Data Collection Plan

The most important technical tool you need to run better safety reporting is a robust data collection plan. You probably already have some type of data collection program: for many organizations, it’s a paper-based or spreadsheet-based system customized for your needs. However, you need to go further than a data storage system to make your data work. A data collection plan indicates:

  • What types of data you need to collect (see Choosing KPIs below)
  • How much of the data you want to collect
  • When you want to collect the data
  • Where you need to collect the data

When you set these parameters, you standardize the collection process. Doing so will generate more accurate data, which then turns into insights that are as close to real-world events as possible. Remember to keep your measurements realistic. You won’t go from capturing strictly TRIR to a 50 data point collection plan in six months. Build something achievable, and set a date for refining and reassessing your plan as you progress.

Process for Implementing Immediate Controls

Another key part of setting up reporting systems requires you to forget reporting and data for a minute. You need to have a process for fixing immediate issues or things that you can spot now. It’s important not to get so caught up in data collection and reporting that you miss an opportunity to fix a problem or prevent an incident before the report comes out.

So, while setting up your data collection program, ensure you have a robust process for implementing immediate controls, just as you would when running a root cause analysis.

General Labor Involvement

The fourth thing you need is the involvement of ground-level staff (general labor up to plant manager) in the assessment of the data and correction of issues. Collecting data requires the input of everyone, even if you only have the foremen punching the figures into the data collection system. You need everyone on-site to understand:

  • What data you need to collect
  • How often you want to collect it
  • What their role is in data collection
  • Why the data collection benefits their safety and the company overall

Worker buy-in makes it much easier to get accurate data faster, and they will even give you insights into the context behind the data or even what KPIs could be most beneficial. Remember: Take care to get management and middle-management buy-in. Foremen, line leaders, and shift supervisors should know what you expect from them, have their own expectations met, and know they have the resources they need to get the job done. If you have a foreman who feels confident in their role, then their team will be far more likely to get involved, too.

Individual and Supervisory Ownership

Buy-in is important because it will make your d safety reporting program feasible. To unlock its true potential, however, you need ownership. What’s the difference between buy-in and ownership? Buy-in grants you access. It removes the first barrier to collecting data.

Ownership means that the team participates in the program because they share the vision, the idea, and the plan. Their choice to participate isn’t because it’s in the SOP: ownership means making the choice to get involved in safety reporting regardless. Achieving common ownership of your program will be harder than getting buy-in. But the work you do will build a community with an equal investment share in its own safety from top to bottom.

Tip: Get started on safety ownership with this introductory piece over at Conversational Leadership.

A Guide to Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)

There’s no shortage of KPIs available to safety pros, and your list of chosen KPIs doesn’t need to be a cookie-cutter version of another program. The best thing about KPIs, and modern systems used to track them, is their versatility and the resulting opportunity for customization.  You can and should choose KPIs that directly relate to your safety program’s structure, strengths, and weaknesses. Every program will have a mix of KPIs from the two primary groups:

  • Lagging indicators
  • Leading indicators

Both KPI groups have merit, and there’s a good chance you’re already familiar with some of the measurements for each group. But the big focus for your safety reporting program should fall on leading indicators.

Lagging Indicators 

Lagging indicators are measurements of losses that already occurred. Many people find themselves most familiar with lagging indicators, which can include your total recordable incident rate (TRIR) and lost-time incident rate (LTIR).

We use lagging indicators to show trends over time and illustrate accidents and their costs.  While you can use lagging indicators to make program changes, they only capture events that occurred. They miss out on the incredible amount of data surrounding events you prevented and how you prevented them. As a result, the program changes may have a muted effect, particularly if circumstances changed.

A few examples of lagging indicators include:

  • Total Recordable Incident Rate (TRIR)
  • Days Away or Transferred (DART)
  • Lost Time Incident Rate (LTIR)

Leading Indicators

Leading indicators are data points and measurements that offer data in the here-and-now. Rather than measuring past loss, they encapsulate many other indicators of the success of your safety program. Most importantly, leading indicators offer the opportunity for prediction.

By offering a more holistic view that you can run as tightly as up-to-the-minute or hour, you can see holes and mistakes and work to rectify them that month, week, or even the same day with the right KPIs and tools. Better yet, you can see what is working and replicate or improve your success based on those insights. For instance, if you are seeing many operational process or equipment problems in the inspections, but you see they are getting fixed properly and in a timely manner, you can better expect to not have associated losses with those processes or equipment. 

Some examples of leading indicators include:

  • Safety observations (including safe and unsafe behaviors)
  • Preventive maintenance actions
  • Time to resolve open hazards
  • Training participation
  • Management commitment efforts
  • Employee engagement

Key KPIs for Every Safety Program

There’s no off-the-shelf package for safety reporting that works as well as choosing your own indicators. And the indicators you choose now will inevitably change. You will tweak your measurements based on new systems, organizational changes, and the maturity of your safety program.

That being said, there are leading indicators that the vast majority of safety programs should track and continue tracking over time. If you’re new to this type of safety reporting, then you can get started here.

Training KPIs

The benefits of training are relatively obvious: you don’t know what your team doesn’t know. So it’s always in your best information to share safety knowledge. But there’s also scientific evidence for the value of training, and there’s a strong positive correlation between successful training programs and preventing occupational injuries.

Because every company must provide some sort of training, it makes for a great place to start with safety reporting. Training records can serve as fuel for related KPIs. The records should show if employees are being trained or are just being put in the field and expected to learn as they go. Gaps in training programs can increase the likelihood of an accident as employees may not yet know what they need to do to be safe in the particular job or task they are performing. 

Some KPIs you might use include:

  • Training type and frequency
  • Training delivered against plan
  • Time to proficiency
  • Transfer of training
  • Job role competency rate
  • Training completion
  • Online assessment pass/fails

Safety Observations

Ultimately, no matter how good the training, you don’t know if someone can do the task (for hands-on tasks at least) until you observe them doing it correctly. Incorrect behavior cannot be corrected if it isn’t being looked for. 

There must be ongoing observations for compliance with policies, programs, and procedures that the training supports. Remember: the best-trained employees are only safe if they actually do what’s required on a regular basis. 

Some safety observation KPIs include:

  • Frequency of safety observations
  • Type of safety observations
  • Ratio of positive to negative observations

Tip: Are you use safety observation KPIs? Use our guide to safety observation best practices to make the most of your data.

Near Misses

Near misses are an opportunity for organizational learning and building the strength of safety programs. They should be investigated like an actual loss report. After all, just because someone wasn’t injured or there was no property damage doesn’t mean this was without cost.

For example, if a product spilled, someone must clean it up, thereby diverting labor from productive tasks to non-productive tasks. If equipment gets stuck in the ground, you need to spend money to free the equipment, resulting in some loss. You must also devote time to the investigation instead of devoting it to some other directly productive (in terms of profitability and/or operations) task. 

Near miss investigations that yield actionable and effective corrective and preventative actions are “productive” but they don’t earn the company money on their own. 

Near misses are quite useful. However, you must always remember that a near miss is essentially an accident with no direct loss (injury or property). A deviation from the norm still occurred, so use the data they provide you to figure out what happened and why.

Inspections and Audits

Inspections and audits are compliance tools, but they provide a unique look at your safety program. You can start by tracking the content and frequency of your inspections and audits and then setting goals to increase or manage both content and time frames. You can also track further KPIs like:

  • Investigation closed time frames
  • Inspections or safety visit against plan
  • Equipment breakdowns

Your data will grant you insights into constructive problem-solving queries like:

  • Whether your maintenance program works
  • If your team gets enough training
  • How often to make updates to procedures and programs

Corrective and Preventative Actions

Your team spots a hazard in the field. What happens next? Hazards and corrective/preventative actions offer a gold mine for safety reporting because they tell you what’s happening on the ground and when.

You should be tracking KPIs like:

  • # of hazards raised per day or week
  • Time from hazard recorded to corrective action implemented
  • Average number of unresolved hazards per week

Unresolved hazards or slow-moving corrective actions are accidents waiting to happen. When you see how the process unfolds, you can update procedures to improve those areas.

Make Your Safety Reporting Insightful and Actionable

Safety reporting is a key part of any safety program. Traditionally, reports stick to incidents and injuries, but with the help of the right KPIs, data collection, and technology, your reports can go much further. You have the opportunity to build a safety reporting system that’s not only unique to your organization but also

  • engages workers
  • identifies program strengths
  • shores up safety weaknesses
  • predicts future incidents

Are you ready to generate reports that are as insightful as they are actionable? Track leading indicators, check in on KPIs, and get your reporting done sooner with Safesite. Get in touch to schedule your team’s demo.

Team Safesite

By Team Safesite

We're a group of safety and tech professionals united in our desire to make every workplace safer. We keep a pulse on the latest regulations, standards, and industry trends in safety and write about them here on our blog.

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