News 4 July 2019

Measuring Up Evaluating OHS Effectiveness Rather Than Results

An article titled ‘Measuring Up, Evaluating Effectiveness Rather Than Results’ by Peter T. Susca was published in the June edition of Professional Safety, the Journal of the American Society of Safety Professionals. The article discusses the value of leading indicators as being an important topic of discussion within the OHS/WHS community for some time. The expectation of these leading indicators is that they will be effective predictors thus enabling an organisation to recognise and prevent unwanted outcomes.

There are, however, some challenges in the design and implementation of these indicators, their correlation with an organisation’s primary goals and risk reduction strategies and their ability to measure effectiveness over results. Most metrics such as profitability, cost per unit, quality non-conformities, retention rates, injuries and near misses are all results oriented and outcome based, whereas driving workplace health and safety requires a preventive and predictive mind-set and measures that enable management to identify and ward off impending harm.

Susca quotes the second of Stephen Covey’s ‘The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People’ which discusses envisioning an expected outcome, then working backward to the present to determine the achievement approach which is more like ending with the beginning in mind. Suska states: ‘the strategic purpose of an initiative must be keenly understood and measurable because the successful and sustainable achievement of the strategy is what effectiveness measures.’ 

In addition, it is important to understand the purpose and relationship between goal, strategy, plan, tactics and objectives as these are the foundation to organisational management and effective measurement. The goal is the purpose of the undertaking and the required outcome or expected result. The strategy is the main approach and principles which will be used to achieve the goal. The plan is an ordered series of tactics, initiatives/methods, to be deployed to support the strategy whilst the objectives must be measureable steps to be taken in the achievement of the planned initiatives. 

In an attempt to create leading metrics, organisations can take a good indicator and turn it in the wrong direction by making it a numeric objective. An example is an organisation where two safety conversations conducted by supervisors for ten minutes each. The results of this conversation process were excellent, and it was decided that each supervisor should conduct two safety conversations per day, ten each week. Supervisors were also required to: a) ensure each employee was spoken to at least once each week, and b) to record these safety conversations in a tracking system. The result was that what took 20 minutes each week now took over an hour each day and, as the effectiveness of the conversations was not being measured, the quality of the conversations dropped significantly. Consequently, over time the entire process was scrapped by management due to the forced nature of the activity and time commitment required. 

It appears that many organisations are results driven and it can be hard for them to pull back and examine important factors such as strategic alignment and the effectiveness of initiatives. When it comes to OHS risk management it can be seen that ineffective activity directly relates to the creating of excessive risk. Why not make an effort to raise the effectiveness of one key OHS measure starting today?

If you would like assistance to help you with your OHS metrics or with measuring the effectiveness of your OHS risk management initiatives please contact the Health, Safety and Wellbeing team

 
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