HSE Knowledge

Leading and lagging HSE indicators in the processing industry

HSE (Health, Safety and Environment) Performance is a hot item in industry. Great gains can still be made in this area in terms of knowledge and experience.

That is is why iBanx HSE organized a workshop entitled "HSE performance measurably better" in 2009. 45 representatives of 26 companies gathered together to share insights about the use of performance indicators for HSE purposes. This workshop constituted the kick-off for a project which sees iBanx HSE continuing to advance the development of this vital discipline. This article provides an update on our ongoing project to promote the industry-wide sharing of knowledge on HSE performance indicators. And you can also read how you can get involved.

The workshop started by taking stock of the companies that currently measure their HSE performance and the problems they encounter in this process. It was found that lots of companies use indicators, mainly to gauge the end results of the safety processes (lagging) such as LTIs. The participants wondered whether they were using the right indicators to ensure optimal safety performance (‘you measure, but incidents continue to occur’) and whether human behaviour could be taken on board in the indicators. One point that was made loud and clear was that the applied indicators must accurately reflect shop floor reality, i.e. ‘what is actually happening on the ground’. Indicators must not be developed from an ivory tower perspective.

The distinction between lagging and leading indicators was fleshed out in the following manner:

Lagging indicators/metrics

• are the result of an incident (the past)

• indicate whether the objectives have been achieved

• cannot be directly/quickly influenced

• are, for instance, the number of LTIs per month, the monthly CO2 emissions.

Leading indicators/metrics

• are aimed at the future (early warning)

• influence the lagging indicators

• can be influenced in the short term

• are, for instance, the number of completed actions.

The conclusion that can be drawn is that if you, as an organization, only measure lagging indicators, you are working reactively. If you also track leading indicators, you are working pro-actively. But what indicators must you choose? Drawing on a case study by Roald Hutten of Indorama, a model has been introduced for the development of safety indicators. This model is based on work of the Health & Safety Executive UK.

The participants were organized into working groups to use and gain experience with this model in getting to grips with a number of notorious HSE problem areas. One striking conclusion was that surprisingly similar problems occur at very different types of companies. However, the significance attached to these issues does differ from one company to the next.

In the working groups it was found that the best approach when using this theoretical model is to keep a sharp focus on the existing issues on the shop floor. This was done largely on the basis of experience and gut feeling. The best performance indicators are developed with real situations in mind, because these genuinely measure what needs to be improved.

The next step in this project is to combine the outcomes from the working groups with our own experiences. This will enable us to develop an overall picture of the most urgent HSE issues together with a linked set of performance indicators. These will be evaluated in October by means of an industry-wide web questionnaire. You will receive an invitation to take part. By filling in the web questionnaire you can compare your daily problems and indicators with those of other companies.

The second phase of the research comprises carrying out measurements for selected KPIs. iBanx HSE provides the participants in the questionnaire with a set of instruments for measuring selected KPIs in their own organization. The outcomes can then be compared with the benchmark. If you prefer, the consultants of iBanx HSE can also do the measurements for you.

Find out more about the Top 5 challenges in the various HSE processes in industry.

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