Media
07/17/13

Leading Versus Lagging Safety Indicators

How Veolia is promoting safety and reducing incidents

An interview with Bob Garner, Vice President of Compliance and Quality
 

BOB GARNER TALKS ABOUT IDENTIFYING UNSAFE CONDITIONS AND BEHAVIORS AND CORRECTING THEM TO PREVENT INJURIES

“The goal now is to identify unsafe conditions and behaviors, then correct them to prevent injuries. It is obviously better to avoid an incident than it is to follow one up with a root cause analysis to determine what happened and why it happened, then make changes to prevent it from happening in the future.
 

WHAT PROMPTED CHANGING THE METRICS FOR THE SAFETY INCENTIVE?

“We were receiving diminishing returns on our current incentive program. It had shown good improvement over the last ten years or so, but during the past couple of years they have been reduced. The curve is asymptotic, where there’s a lot of improvement and then it flattens out. We wanted to do something different."

“The goal now is to identify unsafe conditions and behaviors, then correct them to prevent injuries. It is obviously better to avoid an incident than it is to follow one up with a root cause analysis to determine what happened and why it happened, then make changes to prevent it from happening in the future. We also wanted to avoid any chance that an incident would not be reported if incentives were tied to low accident rates, rather than encouraging the prevention of incidents."

“It was a good program we had in place, but we are always looking for ways to improve what we’re doing. We were incentivizing on a low incidence of injuries and accidents, which is a lagging indicator. Now, we’re recognizing employees for their ability to spot problems and correct them before an injury or accident occurs, which is a leading indicator.”
 

DO YOU SEE ANY POTENTIAL PROBLEMS WITH THE CHANGE?

“Yes, the lagging indicator we had been using is very objective. The number of injuries is a definite number that can be counted."

“Now, the incentive is based on a more subjective metric. We really want legitimate corrective actions. Something like, ‘I dropped a paper clip on the floor, and I picked it up so nobody would trip on it,’ might be questionable, for example. We’ll be auditing the corrective actions that the branches identify and make sure they are legitimate."

“There was also a lot of discussion on what was the right number of corrective actions to expect. We settled on one corrective action per employee per year. We realized that we could change the program if we needed to. As it turns out, one looks like a pretty good number for us."

“After six months or a year some of the low-hanging fruit will probably be identified and corrected, so we may need to change the number next year. We can always evaluate it at the end of the year.”
 

WHO IS BEING INCENTIVIZED?               

“Every employee throughout the company has some component of his or her compensation based on safety performance."

“We still have a goal for the lagging indicators. We still are working to meet or exceed that goal. We’re just not tying compensation to those lagging indicators. They include the OSHA recordable rates, the lost time rate and the severity rate. That’s what we had been using for the safety component of the incentive, and we still have goals that we’re measuring every month.”
 

WHAT TYPES OF CORRECTIVE ACTIONS WILL BE INCLUDED?

“The categories we’re incentivizing include: a near miss, an unsafe condition, and unsafe behavior. The corrective action is what’s important about each situation.”

“The benefits are huge. First, we want to keep our people safe, and we want them to go home from work in the same condition they arrived. If we avoid an injury on the customer side, we avoid an incident investigation that requires their time and resources."

WHAT DO YOU SEE AS THE BENEFITS?

“The benefits are huge. First, we want to keep our people safe, and we want them to go home from work in the same condition they arrived. If we avoid an injury on the customer side, we avoid an incident investigation that requires their time and resources."

“We want everyone to be looking for unsafe conditions automatically, so that it’s second nature to them. Whether it’s in our facility or at a customer’s location, we want them to bring the problem to the attention of the right person."

“It might be a difficult conversation with a customer, but everyone needs to feel that if anything appears to be dangerous, they’ll stop work and call their supervisor.”
 

WHAT HAS BEEN THE REACTION TO THE NEW PROGRAM?

“It’s been really well received by everybody in the company. We’re hoping to have feedback on ways we can improve it, of course. One of things we’re planning to do is to provide training on effectively interacting with your coworkers in situations that may need to be addressed. How the message is delivered could have a big impact on the result of whether an incident is actually prevented.”
 

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