How Effective Is Your Safety Program?

I’m sure you are like most tree care companies and attempt to provide a safe workplace for your employees by having a written safety program, creating a safety committee and performing regular tailgate safety talks. But how do you know if you are really achieving an effective level of safety awareness within your organization? Use the following to measure how well your safety program is doing.

Define Benchmarks and Goals – OSHA suggests to look at both Lagging and Leading Indicators to determine effectiveness of your safety program. Have your safety committee create a list of these indicators to set the baseline for your safety program. Have these indicators be measurable or quantitative rather than subjective or qualitative. Then as a committee, form realistic goals to improve upon these indicators.

A Lagging Indicator is a statistic from a previous accident or injury. Look at your OSHA 300 log or your insurance policy loss runs to show what has happened in the past. Examples can be simply, the number of work comp claims, the number of auto accidents or number of sick/injured days away from work. These indicators are typically negative events that an effective safety program will look to reduce or eliminate.

A Leading Indicator is a measure of how well your program has been implemented by focusing on preventative actions or behaviors. Examples of Leading Indicators can include, the number of attendees to your safety meetings, number of in-field safety audits, number of employee safety suggestions, or the number of near misses reported. These indicators are typically positive events that your safety program should encourage to grow. A quick word on near misses. You may be thinking why would you want an increase in near misses? You’re right you don’t want more close calls, but you do want to encourage and support the discussion of more near misses in your safety meetings to help others prevent making a similar mistake. Open communication is a pillar of a solid safety culture.

Track Indicators – Appoint someone on your safety committee to be in charge of compiling the data. Using Microsoft Excel is a simple way to store the data and compare it over time. These indicators should be looked at on a monthly basis to actively monitor trends both positive and negative so swift action or rewards can be addressed as soon as possible.

Audit your Program – Verify that the main elements of your safety program have been implemented by:
Asking employees from all departments to explain the procedure for reporting injuries?
Reviewing injury report forms for completeness and verifying that the suggestions to prevent future injuries have been performed.

Requesting to see the documentation from each safety meeting.
Consistently monitoring the indicator data for changes.

Of course a strong safety program will evolve and adapt over time. Use the information gathered from your audits and conversations with your team members to continually improve your program. Rotate the members of your safety committee over time as well so that everyone within your organization feels that they have some ownership in the safe workplace that you are creating. Remember everyone wins with safety!

Written by: Eric Petersen