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    October 11, 2017

    Automotive Manufacturing: Leading Indicators for Safety Programs

    When it comes to sustainability, you need to give employees control. Your employees need to see a strong correlation between effort and outcome regarding safety; leading indicators provide this.

    One key safety aspect of the automotive industry is its proactive approach to safety. Auto manufacturers anticipate potential problems by making use of such engineering tools as fault-tree-analysis and potential-problems-analysis.

    The use of engineering tools as a basic practice for driving EHS; is a leading indicator. The absence of using these tools would lead to a rise in lagging indicators such as accidents and incidents.

    Leading Indicators vs Lagging Indicators

    A lagging indicator is anything that has already happened. Near misses, property damage, incidents and injuries are all examples of lagging indicators. They tell you how well your EHS programs are doing. You need solid leading indicators if you want a chance at controlling the lagging indicators.

    Leading indicators which drive safety include any measurable activity that will influence EHS for the better. This would include such activities such as:

    • Participation in safety meetings
    • Employee participation in safety projects
    • Hazard assessments
    • Safety training
    • EHS communications (newsletters, bulletin boards, meetings, etc.)
    • EHS best practice sharing

    Safety programs are either proactive or they are inactive. Auto manufactures tend to be proactive in flushing out potential EHS issues. The more focus you place on leading indicators, the more you can control lagging indicators.

    Leading Indicators to Accidents

    We should never forget: we are creatures of habit and we can easily normalize unsafe behaviors. It is important to recognize and influence behavior. The three leading indicators for accidents are:

    1. Short cuts
    2. Snap Decisions
    3. Complacency

    When any of the above behaviors is observed, it is an indicator that incidents are likely to follow. Managers should encourage safe behaviors and watch out for these three leading indicators to accidents.

    Give employees and managers control by a strong focus on leading indicators for controlling lagging indicators. Leading indicators empower you while too much emphasis on lagging indicators can make you feel helpless. One is proactive and the other is reactive. Which do you use?

    To learn more about automotive safety, read Safety in the Automotive Industry: What Is Riding on Your Reputation?