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Leading Safety Indicator

May 5, 2014

Is there one leading indicator when it comes to predicting workplace injuries and preventing hazards from happening? An article by Griffin Schultz discuses a study that was performed by a team at Carnegie Mellon University on how the information that is obtained from safety inspections and observations can be used to improve safety and to predict future safety problems.

The study was conducted when safety-incident data was matched with the information from safety inspections and observations from several companies over a 4 year period.  The team then put this matching information in to a high powered computer.  After the computer had time to “learn” about the millions of incidents, observations and inspections it predicted safety incidents for the next 30 days.  A new data set was then put in and tested for accuracy against the computers prediction.  The computer was extremely accurate and could predict safety problems within an 80-97% accuracy rate!

Now what? Not every company has the resources to engage extremely advanced systems.  The article suggests that basic data and reports can be utilized using programs like Microsoft Excel.  These sorts of reports can answer questions such as:

-What happened?
-How many, how often, where?
-What actions are needed?

More advanced systems are needed in order to answer harder more detailed questions such as:

-Why is this happening?
-What if the trend continues?
-What will happen next?
-How do we achieve the best outcome?

Simply by performing regular safety inspections and observations can yield very important data and can give a company a good start on preventing future incidents.  The article also suggests that getting employees (not specifically safety experts) involved in the inspections can help in catching everyday problems and can provide answers to safety problems.

While one single answer/safety indicator may not exist, it’s clear to see that the information derived from regular safety inspections and observations is extremely important and should not be ignored.

Schultz, Griffin. ”The Holy Grail of Safety: A Single, All-Encompasing Safety Leading Indicator.” www.ehstoday.com. February 6, 2014. February 21, 2014.

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