Unlike most other business measures—think earnings growth or debt load—the traditional measures of safety performance tell us little about where existing functioning actually is, and where it is headed. The deficiency of safety measurement in describing actual performance is so common as to be a cliché. The reality is that there are many variables that determine the quality of safety functioning, variables that could be detected with the right set of metrics, processes, and analysis.
Using the scorecard discipline from the Zero Index, one could begin drafting the right set of metrics and effective analysis ― a safety dashboard. The scorecard discipline describes how well the organization seeks and processes essential indicators of safety performance. This discipline is measured both in terms of the comprehensiveness of the set of measures the organization uses, as well as the way in which the organization collects, processes, and interprets that information. The organization is able to manage safety performance.
Using and updating a dashboard
One organization we worked with used the same safety dashboard for many years. Each month, a safety committee composed of senior operations managers and safety professionals met to review and discuss their lengthy dashboard.
Section 1 showed OSHA recordable incident rates from each of their locations, lost workday incident rates, and a breakdown of injuries by body part.
Section 2 listed Tier 1, 2, and 3 process safety events.
Section 3 listed the status of action items, recommendations, open issues, and past due inspections.
Publicly, many senior leaders joked about the length of the report. Privately, a few leaders admitted that safety meetings were a waste of time, particularly the dashboard review.
Discussions during the review focused on whether or not the numbers were accurate. Managers who had not had incidents that month said nothing, while managers who had incidents in their areas argued with the safety professionals about incident management, classification, and record-keeping. Discussion of the action items, recommendations, and open issues were limited except immediately before or after an inspection.
The organization’s senior safety leader asked us to help develop a new safety dashboard. The goal was to present a set of information that would prompt a productive and proactive safety discussion. Senior leaders needed to be able to quickly assess the state of safety functioning but also have enough detail to respond with precise, and upstream, action.
As the leader put it, “I don’t need to know how many body parts were injured…we can all count. I need management to be able focus on reducing exposure to the most serious incidents in their areas.”
Working with members of the safety committee, we developed a hierarchical report. Functionally, the dashboard offered a high-level view of a mix of critical indicators. Leaders were able drill down for additional detail as they needed. Substantively, we balanced traditional measures with new leading indicators. Exposure metrics tracked levels of exposure to both personal and process safety hazards. Control metrics looked at indicators of functioning in both safety systems and the management systems that supported them, for example the proportion of safety audit findings resolved within 60 days (personal safety) or on-time completion of critical safety equipment testing (process safety).
Right away, leaders were surprised by the level of detail available upstream of a crisis. The report was both easier to read and more detailed. Most important, the new dashboard has allowed the senior leadership team to develop a better fluency with the moving parts of safety in their organization.
To learn more about the Scorecard Discipline and building a dashboard,