A famous business quote, often attributed to Peter Drucker is, "What gets measured, gets managed", sounds insightful but oversimplifies the issue.
Within health and safety, I think we have several issues:
1.Are we measuring the right things?
Many large organisations focus on LITFR and other lag indicators. This is used too often as a key indicator of the effectiveness of the system and the people driving it. Few companies sit down with their stakeholders and have a meaningful discussion about what are the right things to measure. The answer isn't to measure more, the starting place must be what should we be measuring and how can we do it? ISO 45001 with its focus on the PDCA cycle may improve this in time as the feedback loop is better suited to developing effective health and safety metrics. Organisations must tailor their measurements to their own problems and needs, and not look externally for some ideal set of indicators to depend on. If there's a problem with site safety checks, set up a review process and measure your findings. If you have set objectives around a specific improvement, find a way to measure how effective it has been against previous results. Ask workers what the issues are - undertake a survey of your workers, for a smaller business one on one interviews may be an option.
2.Is linking KPI's to $ effective?
I have been concerned for several years that at NZQA Unit Standard based training courses, attendees are being taught the content they need to pass the assessment rather than the whole subject. Consequently, companies and Health and Safety Managers end up just doing what's being measured. This is the weakness of linking pay increases or bonuses to KPI's for health and safety. It's human nature to achieve what's important to you and often what's important to your boss becomes important to you. However, the difficult or uncomfortable issues are ignored. An interesting phenomenon is that workers will often recognise if this is the case.
3.Do we know what good looks like?
It's easy to do well if you don't expect much! Too many supposed health and safety objectives are basic legal requirements. Often to get more - we need to expect more. Make sure you know what best practice would look like. Organisations should consider talking to their industry bodies about help with benchmarking, so that meaningful objectives can be set. Wouldn't it be great to have indicators across an industry relating to real issues such as the effectiveness of health and safety training?
My hope is that the more insightful approach of ISO 45001 if used along with effective internal and external audits, will over time address these issues. If you want to know more about ISO 45001 and the audit process go to avidauditing.co.nz.