positive or negative risk management goals
Property Casualty

Are Your Risk Management Goals Defined as Positive or Negative?

Kevan Bakewell
Kevan Bakewell
Vice President, Enterprise Loss Control, PC

Safety is an interesting and unique element of any business’s operation due to the way goals and metrics are defined. In business, goals and metrics are usually defined in the positive. Higher production (parts), higher profitability, or better customer service (positive feedback) are all examples of positive metrics in which more is better. Safety, on the other hand, is usually thought of in terms of negative metrics. Fewer injuries are better. Of course, this is true, but is solely measuring the reduction of injuries a good way to manage risk or safety?

Achieving long-term safety success requires planning, consistent execution, and measurement of safety goal execution. The long-term goal is clear — a reduction of injuries and claims. The question then becomes, what are the best goals to achieve consistent safety excellence?

Effective goals can be created for safety improvement plans, including effective leading metrics which are positive metrics. Using leading metrics to measure the goals, efforts, and execution of safety and risk management activities will be an effective way to predict the lagging outcomes (injuries/claims) later. Even better, these goals and metrics can be integrated into other business metrics through the use of a balanced scorecard. Measuring safety efforts, activities, and execution should be the focus. Measuring the presence of safety is a real-time leading metric and should be the objective.

For example: If a company believes safety can be improved by providing more inspections related to identifying and controlling falls from height hazards (after analyzing loss trends), then a leading indicator would be to measure the number and results of inspection events and corrective actions related to fall safety. An action plan could be developed to implement this goal. The evaluation of the execution and quality of the inspections (and corrective actions) could then be measured and provide feedback on the safety execution. The strategy should be to identify good measurements (leading metrics) for the execution of safety, which can be used for developing goals and actions that could be used for evaluating both the execution of the plan and employee performance.

As you consider developing your safety plan, here are a few things to consider:

  • What goals do you want to accomplish to reduce risk based on past losses or current hazards?
  • Is the vision and end state defined in the negative or positive? Are you aiming at having fewer failures (injuries, incidents, defects, etc.) or achieving success by increasing safety activities and leading indicators?
  • Are safety goals communicated broadly within the organization, and do employees understand the goals and where your company is going for safety?
  • How many of your employees can tell you what the safety goals and vision are?
  • How will you measure whether people are involved in safety and the quality goal execution?
  • For current or future goals, do the people responsible for the goals have the knowledge, skills, and abilities to execute it?
  • Does the plan have the necessary resources to succeed?
  • Do employees understand your company’s value and vision related to safety?

Trailing indicators (injuries/claims data) are not predictive in terms of indicating where an organization’s safety performance is headed. Companies that use injury or claims rates to measure safety performance are basically measuring the consequences of not having effective safety programs in place. Measuring the execution of safety goals and activities is a better approach. Once relevant safety goals are developed, a strong safety strategy can be considered for long-term success. Measuring the “goodness” of safety efforts and activities allows your company to understand what you’re doing to reduce risk each day. Involving employees in these efforts raises awareness and execution and allows your company to recognize individual contributor efforts for safety as well as celebrate your success when incident rates decrease.

So, let’s be positive about safety!

Explore more from Holmes Murphy