Occupational Health & Safety (OHS) is a key aspect of all businesses. It is a legal requirement that businesses ensure that all health & safety risks in the workplace are controlled and managed. Companies develop and implement OHS management systems to manage all workplace health & safety hazards and risks.

If your business has a management system (AS/NZS 4801 or OHSAS 18001) or planning to implement ISO 45001:2018, then it is a requirement of the standard to measure the performance of the safety system and also develop & establish objectives related to the health & safety management system.

For details about the requirement refer: ISO 45001:2018 – OH&S Management System

  • Clause 6.3 OH&S Objectives and planning to achieve them.
  • Clause 9.1 Monitoring, measurement, analysis and evaluation.

Measuring safety performance is a crucial part of the safety management and provides information for the continual improvement. It is vital for your business to identify, establish and implement the right safety measure. Like the upstream vs downstream solutions, your business needs both bottom-line safety measures and preventive measures.

There are two types of indicators (lagging and leading indicators) to measure your safety performance.

lead vs lag pic


Lagging Indicator

Lagging indicators are reactive in nature that measure a company’s performance based on the information from past incidents and accidents. It measures the goal accomplished by looking after the event/ incident has occurred or ‘after the fact’. In most cases, it is easy to measure but hard to influence the future of the safety system.

Some examples of lagging indicators:

  • Injury frequency and severity
  • Fatalities
  • Lost Time Incident
  • Work safe reportable incidents
  • Worker’s claims and compensation costs

Most of the organisation use lagging indicators as traditional safety metrics to indicate of safety performance and compliance to meet applicable legal requirements. Lagging indicators tell us how many got injured and severity of the incident which shows the overall reactive performance of the safety system.


Lagging Indicators are not adequate

Lagging indicator shows information after the event/incident has occurred. This information does not adequately measure the performance of the safety management system. Business is required to take appropriate measures to either eliminate or reduce OH&S hazards and risks. Hence, reactionary data of lagging indicator is a not sufficient and does not provide insight into the preventive measures of the firm.

If your business has a low incident rate or lost time Injury does not mean you have an effectiveness OH&S system. There are numerous risk factors within in the workplace that if not noticed/measured will contribute to future incidents.


Leading indicator

Leading indicators are in proactive in nature, and it predicts the future safety event. The information from leading indicators provides insight on how to influence the anticipated event by carrying our preventive measures. In most cases, it is difficult to measure leading indicators.  It is essential that your business has leading indicators to performance your safety systems as it improves safety through insight and prevention, safety culture and shows stakeholders that the organisation is taking proactive steps to attain safety excellence.

Some examples of leading indicators:

  • Safety training
  • Hazards reports
  • Safety articles, news and updated from Worksafe
  • Initiatives to improve safety culture
  • Positive feedback and recognition for OH&S performance
  • Risk assessment, identification and mitigation
  • Employee surveys
  • Safety audits and inspections
  • Communication, participation and consultation of workers in safety system

Choosing a leading indicator various between companies and industries. It is recommended you look at your competitor and industry peers and see what leading indicator they use to measure safety performance. By doing this, you can benchmark your performance against your peers in the industry. Leading indicators are focused on future safety performance and continuous improvement. These measures are proactive in nature and report what employees are doing on a regular basis to prevent injuries.


Best approach

In recent years, businesses have shifted their focus on leading indicators to improve safety notably. It is recommended you a combination of both leading & lagging indicators. It should also be noted that reporting specific safety incidents is a legal requirement (Worksafe).

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