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Using Leading Indicators to Improve Safety: A Primer for ASMIS 2.0

Using Leading Indicators to Improve Safety: A Primer for ASMIS 2.0

ALBERT MITCHELL
Directorate of Analysis and Prevention
Workplace Safety Division
U.S. Army Combat Readiness Center
Fort Novosel, Alabama

The Army recently centralized the collection of information regarding the performance of health and safety programs with the introduction of the Army Safety Management Information System (ASMIS 2.0). Traditionally, the Army uses metrics such as mishaps, employee lost work hours (due to a work-related injury) and financial costs. These results are lagging indicators that are easy to count, collect, compare and analyze between organizations. Reacting to these incidents after the fact may not be ideal when it comes to keeping our Army family safe.

Lagging indicators

These indicators measure the end result of occupational health and safety (OHS) processes, policies and procedures. Lagging indicators measure negative or unwanted outcomes such as injuries, illnesses or deaths. They are records of things that have already happened and are part of a reactive culture. Lagging indicators are well understood, widely used and provide a good sense of how well — or poorly — an organization’s existing OHS system is working. These indicators are inaccurate in finding where an OHS program might need improvement; only that it does (if it does) and how badly.

Since lagging indicators don’t explain the “why” behind the bottom line, organizations may tend to respond with broad, generalized corrective actions. Waiting for the damage to be done before addressing the risks may send a message that worker health and safety isn’t a priority. It’s an approach that can impair an organization’s efforts at building a positive safety culture.

Leading indicators

Leading indicators represent a different, but complementary, way of addressing OHS — from the front end (a signal), with an eye to preventing harm before it happens. The Army’s specific health and safety activities and overall goals are the focus here. When used effectively, leading indicators target select areas of an organization’s OHS management program to determine if specific goals are being met and expected benefits are being realized. To be effective, the link between what leading indicators measure and the desired outcome should be clear. It’s a cause-and-effect relationship that makes the safety and occupational health (SOH) professional think about what is measured and the impacts of the outcome.

The purpose of leading indicators

OHS management programs are in place to ensure our employees go home healthy and safe at the end of the day, every day. But it’s not enough to introduce health and safety processes into the workplace and hope they do the trick. What’s needed is to measure their effectiveness on an ongoing basis, include them in OHS performance discussions and adjust them as appropriate. Leading indicators can be a useful tool to help organizations track, measure and adjust their OHS-related activities so they can effectively direct their health and safety performance and avoid incidents or harm. Because of their ability to target specific aspects of the organization’s health and safety management program, leading indicators can provide equally specific insight into the strengths and weaknesses of the OHS program.

Leading indicators measure the data inputs SOH personnel are making to the OHS management process through ASMIS 2.0. They measure the presence of safety as opposed to the absence of injury. They acknowledge individual efforts and can inspire a positive culture toward improving health and safety performance. Leading indicators work to complement the more traditional outcome-based measures of lagging indicators and can be used to balance out some of the limitations.

Focusing on compliance

The ASMIS 2.0 Assessments, Inspections and Surveys application was developed to capture the results of compliance-based inspections. The program captures data in the form of assets (work environments) tracking, inspection frequencies, deficiencies, root-cause identification and recommendations. Some of the metrics available include comparisons of the number of assets and the number of inspections conducted. By also looking at overdue inspections, it’s easy to tell if your inspection interval is falling behind when compared to prior years. SOH professionals can also see trending information for their subordinate UICs. They will be able to check their subordinate’s inspection status in real time to determine where they can provide support. The built-in hierarchal oversight also allows quality control techniques to be applied to the inspector since all final reports are now stored and can be recalled for analysis in the system.

The ASMIS 2.0 Hazard Management application can also be used for trends analysis and checking the health of a unit safety program. The program tracks deficiencies captured in the Inspections program. Hazards can be tracked from time entered to final abatement (cradle to grave). Longer abatement times (past the Occupational Safety and Health Administration-required timelines) and an extensive number of hazards may be an indicator that there is a problem in the organization. The program also tracks those hazards that were “risk accepted.” Accepting too much risk may be a leading indicator of a possible issue in the organization. Finally, high-risk hazards that have untimely mitigation or abatement is a telltale sign of issues at various levels of an organization. The program can also provide a hierarchal overview of subordinates and their mitigation and abatement progress at a glance.

Closing

Organizations may be tempted to focus on counting activities, but in the end, it’s not the numbers themselves that matter: it’s the quality of the data and information collected, and that data must be meaningful and relevant. When quality data is entered into the data collection system (ASMIS 2.0), it can be used as leading indicators of the health of an organization’s safety program. Initial use of the system may seem time consuming; however, it becomes much easier as the user gains experience and knowledge of the system. These leading indicator performance measures are intended to drive continuous monitoring and health and safety improvement. They evolve with the organization’s performance level.

Visit the links below for more information on ASMIS 2.0. Additional information can be found at the U.S. Army Combat Readiness Center website at https://safety.army.mil.

  • 28 April 2024
  • Author: USACRC Editor
  • Number of views: 208
  • Comments: 0
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