I have an ongoing dispute with many people in the EHS community about workplace safety. They are convinced that we should measure actions but never the end result – injuries. I respectfully disagree.

First, let them tell their side of the story. It goes something like this: “It is a mistake to use injuries as the focus of attention, measure of success and trigger for change. Instead, safety should be focused on the reporting of hazards, OSHA compliance and training. If all those things are done well, we will have a safe result.”

Here is my side of the story. All those things need to be done, and done well, if we are to achieve the results we want, but how are we going to know if we don’t measure those results? Only by measuring results do we know how effectively we are training and reporting.

Think of it this way: The safety gurus want your golf swing to be as good as it possibly can be. That’s their focus, and that’s what they are concerned with. I also want your golf swing to be as good as possible, in order for your golf score to be as low as possible. If we focused only on the swing, we wouldn’t have the pleasure of a tournament; instead, we’d make our awards at the driving range.

It’s the same with safety. We want excellent training, a safe environment and reporting of hazards, but they are not the end-all, be-all. There is a measurement for how well those things are being done, and it is the number and severity of injuries the company is suffering. We measure injuries because they tell us how well we are doing all the safety basics – are we failing or succeeding?

Just as a golfer has to take what he’s learned about his swing onto the course and produce results, a work force has to take what it has learned about safety and apply it. If we don’t measure those results, then we don’t have the information to make changes and adjustments.

What Matters More, the Swing or the Score?
EHS Today