The 2007 White Paper survey shows a strong consensus exists in most organizations about essential health and safety interventions. When it comes to health and safety, there are a lot of bases to cover, programs to manage. It’s all important, often making prioritizing and resource allocation problematic.

No weak links

On a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 “not important at all” and 10 “very important,” the following actions all ranked “7” or higher:

OSHA compliance (9.07)

PPE compliance (8.68)

Hazard and injury reporting (8.38)

Emergency preparedness (8.31)

Lockout-tagout procedures (8.07)

Improving employee safe attitudes (8.03)

Improving employee safe behaviors (8.00)

Increasing engagement of employees (8.00)

Auditing and abating risks (7.89)

Increasing engagement of managers (7.85)

Improving cultural values and beliefs regarding safety (7.83)

Implementing/maintaining a safety and health management system (7.81)

Fall protection (7.69)

Motor vehicle safety (7.63)

MSDS management (7.50)

Assigning and tracking individual accountability for safety (7.45)

Health/wellness programs (7.41)

Confined space entry procedures (7.07)

Ergonomics (7.04)

The only activity with a score lower than 7? Security and terrorism protection (6.73).

Are the tools effective?

This raises the question: How do you know if you’re succeeding — adding value — with these tools?

Particularly when it comes to improving culture and ensuring accountability, how do you know if your efforts are paying off?

Certainly, tried-and-true OSHA injury and illness recordkeeping won’t tell you much about the state of your safety culture, or level of accountability. You can do everything wrong in safety, or nothing at all, and by sheer luck — or a small statistical base of employees — have few or no injuries in a given time period.

OSHA “failure rates” can be useful as broad benchmarks, but they tell you really nothing specific about positive, preventive activities occurring in your culture.

Measuring activities

In the 2007 White Paper survey, EHS pros were asked about their use of a number of leading performance indicators — measures of activity, not accidents.

Across the board, the most common activity-based measured was observing the safe and at-risk behaviors of employees. Only nine percent of EHS pros never used behavioral observations. Almost half (49 percent) conducted some type of observation activity on a daily basis.

The least popular leading metrics? Perception surveys (never used by 47 percent); measuring the hours that leadership spends in safety training (never tracked by 47 percent); and tracking the ratio of safety risks found to risks corrected (never done by 41 percent).

Most safety activities are tracked on a monthly basis. For example, 35 percent of EHS pros reported measuring the number of safety discussions and safety meetings every month; 14 percent did it every week; 12 percent quarterly; and 10 percent annually.

Likewise, 33 percent of pros reported tracking the number of audits or safety inspections monthly; nine percent did it daily; nine percent weekly; 16 percent quarterly; and 19 percent annually.

Profits & size make a difference

We found two interesting results aligned to types of organizational environments:
  1. The frequency of activities such as tracking behavioral observations, manager safety talks, pre-job safety briefings, safety meetings, audits, completed risk assessments, and risks abated was more likely to occur on a daily, weekly or monthly basis in companies that reported increasing sales and profits in the past 12 months.

    Financially healthy organizations, not surprisingly, have the resources to be more proactive, more often.

    In companies where profits stagnated or declined in the previous 12 months, tracking these activities happened less frequently, more likely on a quarterly or annual basis, if at all.
  2. The frequency that these progressive health and safety activities were measured was most intense — occurring daily, weekly or monthly — in mid-size organizations with 100-499 employees. This appears to be the optimum environment, in terms of an organization’s size, for frequent use of measurement tools.

    In larger environments, with workforces of 1,000+ employees, tracking health and safety activities more likely occurred quarterly or annually.

Editor’s note: In September, we mailed the two-page White Paper questionnaire to 2,000 subscribers. From a usable base of 1,978, 471 subscribers responded for a 24-percent response rate. Survey was designed and tabulated by Clear Seas Research, Troy, Mich.