A good culture of safety is quite possibly the most valuable asset your business can possess. One of the reasons it’s so valuable is because it can be incredibly difficult to acquire and maintain – a problem related to a different type of culture: the reactionary kind.

A reactive culture is a business that responds to problems, like a lack of safety, when it happens, and not before. It means they’ll think about safety after an accident, or after a less-than-ideal health and safety review.

If they do use safety indicators then they’re most likely lagging indicators. Before we go on let’s explain the difference between lagging and leading safety indicators. What do these terms mean in relation to safety?

  • Lagging safety indicators – Generally the traditional approach to measuring safety, lagging safety indicators are historical metrics such as accident reports and statistics. They record actual accidents, both the frequency and severity of each incident in an attempt to prevent them in the future.
  • Leading safety indicators – These are metrics that indicate the potential of accidents happening in the future, rather than basing it on past performance. An example of a leading safety indicator might be aggressive driving behavior, which is known to typically result in more accidents per mile.

What does your business use? What are the advantages of using leading indicators to monitor safety?

Leading safety indicators result in big savings

We all know prevention is better than a cure. A company that puts the emphasis on proactive leading indicators and focuses on addressing safety risks before they result in an accident saves big, both on injured employees and crash costs.

A single accident on the job can cost upwards of $21,000, and the NHTSA estimates that vehicular accidents cost the nation more than $870 billion every year. Often these estimates don’t include many of the indirect costs of an accident (use our free accident cost worksheet to more accurately determine the true cost).

The emotional and physical harm of a serious accident is very difficult to quantify but suffice to say it’s hugely damaging for the employee, the company and everyone else involved.

Using leading indicators to prevent accidents from ever happening obviously makes perfect business sense – so why aren’t more people adopting it?

The challenge of getting your business to adopt leading safety indicators

On paper it makes perfect sense but the reality is that many safety managers encounter resistance when attempting to implement a more proactive safety culture, using leading indicators.

The problem lies in the default setting of humans to be reactive – we think about installing smoke alarms after something catches fire, stocking up on bottled water in the middle of a storm or getting travel insurance after our flight gets delayed. It’s the proverbial Monday morning quarterback or 20/20 hindsight mentality and it’s hard to shift something so ingrained.

When everything is fine, efforts to improve safety are just an inconvenience, a perceived waste of time in an already busy day. Getting your team to prepare for the rain when the sun is shining is tough work!

The drive for change needs to come from the top. Management teams need to understand the cost-benefit analysis of switching to a more proactive safety culture. Once you understand the why, you then need to understand the how.

How can we use leading safety indicators to reduce crashes?

One example of a leading indicator is fuel economy (MPG). With Telogis Fleet management software this metric can easily be measured, reported alongside expected fuel economy for comparative purposes.

This can be charted over time to highlight trends. Telogis Fleet even allows you to configure automatic alerts if specific thresholds are exceeded.

Increased fuel usage is used as a leading indicator and a strong signal of specific driving behaviors. Harsh acceleration, braking, tailgating and speeding – they don’t just waste fuel – they increase the chance of being involved in a crash.

See also: Miles Per Gallon – The forgotten safety metric

In addition to fuel use, other leading indicators can be data gained from employee perception surveys or safety audits.

Whatever leading metrics your fleet chooses to use, being proactive about safety will be a positive boost to both driver morale and the bottom line. Telogis can help you develop a measurable safety plan – talk to us today.