Q83. What is occupational safety and health performance?

Occupational safety and health (OSH) performance can be defined as: "a measure of the level of effectiveness of those business activities aimed at the prevention of injury and disease to persons in the workplace".

Depending upon what elements of OSH performance are being measured (the primary metrics used generally are based upon the collection of data relating to leading and lagging indicators), the periodic monitoring and review of these should aim to demonstrate:

• Historical OSH performance and performance trends.

• Compliance with statutory obligations.

• Visible commitment to duty of care responsibilities.

• Good management practices.

All organisations should establish procedures for the measurement of OSH performance which should detail responsibility and accountability within the organisation for this process.

Q84. Why should we measure occupational safety and health performance?

The main reasons for measuring occupational safety and health (OSH) performance are:

• To minimise the occurrence of workplace injury/disease by reducing the level of risk at work: This is perhaps the most important reason to accumulate and analyse OSH performance data within an organisation - that is, to monitor the level of success of existing controls and to highlight areas of improvement for managing workplace risk.

• To provide an OSH feedback mechanism: Once OSH data has been collected, it can be used by both management and workers to measure whether the controls and initiatives implemented to manage workplace risk have been effective.

• To provide a measure of sound management and corporate sustainability: Organisations that require funding from institutional investors are aware that good OSH performance is seen as a positive sign that management has:

• Sound processes and procedures in place to identify and manage workplace risk.

• Strong commitment to improving OSH performance.

• Allocated adequate resources to reducing costs associated with accidents and incidents.

• To facilitate a process of OSH benchmarking between organisations and industries: Organisations in many industry sectors submit data to a central body, usually a membership or trade association, that publishes periodic data on the general level of OSH performance in the industry, thus allowing organisations to measure their own performance against their own industry's standard. This data tends to be accumulated from lagging indicators, such as the number of fatalities, the number of lost time work days, total recordable incident rates, etc. Leading indicators can be difficult to use for industry sector benchmarking purposes as they tend to be company-specific and tailored to meet individual corporate objectives.

Q85. Why should we analyse safety statistics?

Once a safety management system (SMS) has been defined and is run according to the criteria within it (especially the reliable reporting of leading and lagging indicators), the analysis of safety report statistics is a useful tool to measure performance.

Analysis of safety data allows you to address:

• What safety issues are happening in the workplace.

• How well you are doing in managing risk (or not, as the case may be).

• What safety issues have happened in the past.

• Indications that problems are building up and that action needs to be taken.

One of the primary aims of any SMS is that of continual improvement and reporting and analysis of statistical data is one of the main ways to do this. However, some caveats:

• Analysing numbers from your safety activities should only be carried out if your system is well defined and working effectively. For example, it is possible for large organisations to generate very high levels of apparently accident-free exposure man-hours[1] that can provide an illusion of effective safety management but where there is virtually no lagging or leading indicator reporting.

• Whatever criteria are used to analyse accident statistics should be consistent year-on-year to allow for direct and equitable comparison with historical data. That way, improvement in safety performance can be measured.

• When looking at health and safety statistics, always bear in mind that well-known quote: "There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics".[2]

  • [1] A metric that records the number of exposure hours worked per man, free from reportable accidents, calculated on a 12-hour or 24-hour day. Thus, 25 men working 12-hour shifts for 1 week without an accident is 25 x 12 x 7 = 2,100 man hours
  • [2] Often attributed to the 19th century British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli, although the source is disputed
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