There is a saying “What gets measured, gets managed”. This is effectively what trend analysis is. It is measuring and quantifying the results of workplace safety.
But it is more than just the injury numbers. Those are easy numbers to look at, but they don’t always tell you the whole story. For example:
They have injury numbers that are well below the average for their industry. Their insurance rates and accident costs are low as a result. By these measures, this is a company that values safety.
But, when you open the doors and take a look, you might see incentives for not reporting injuries. A culture that disciplines heavily if people get injured. A large number of contract employees whose costs don’t fall under safety. Inspections may reveal violations, poor maintenance, or safety hazards that are not fixed right away.
They have good numbers, but a bad safety culture.
They have injury numbers that are much higher than their industry generally averages. Employees are missing time from work due to injuries. Their insurance rates are high and well-rated insurance companies turn them away, causing high costs. They seem to have major safety issues.
But, when you speak to the management team you find out that, yes, years ago they had problems and some serious incidents, but they are committed to turning it around. They hired safety professionals, are implementing safe work practices, and are getting everyone involved in the goal of improving safety. Their trending shows that they are improving year over year.
They have bad numbers, but a good safety culture.
This is why you have to look at more than just injury rates. There are two kinds of trending data; reactive and proactive. Safety trend analysis needs measures safe behaviors as well as accidents, injuries, and causes to get the entire picture.
REACTIVE DATA IN TREND ANALYSIS
Reactive data comes from the adverse events we are trying to prevent. These are data related to incidents that result in injuries or property damage of any kind.
There is a ton we can learn from reactive data. We can trend the types of incidents, tasks being completed, employee experience, day of the week, and the list goes on. Reactive data is great for telling us what happened because if it happened before, it will likely happen again if we don’t change anything.
The problem with reactive data is that the bad thing already happened. Someone has to get hurt or there has to be damage for us to learn anything.
Reactive data doesn’t change quickly, either. If you look at the trends week over week, month over month, you will see that it tells you the same story. You have to give it time to change. This is why I collect the data regularly, but only analyze and share it quarterly.
PROACTIVE DATA IN TREND ANALYSIS
The money is in proactive data. This is where you should be spending most of your time because it actually saves the company money.
Proactive data comes from looking at behaviors BEFORE anything bad happens. These can also be called unsafe acts or unsafe conditions. Looking at the safety pyramid, these are the very bottom, these are the foundation of every near miss, accident, injury, or fatality.
Finding negative trends in your proactive data and improving them is how you get to zero incidents and increase productivity. But they can be hard to quantify and collect; you want the data in a numerical format. In fact, many safety managers can’t even figure out a way to trend their proactive data.
To help you get started, here is a list of data points that can be collected at almost every operation:
- Safe Work Behaviors
- Compliance to policies
- Productivity numbers for comparison
- Interactions with management
- Work orders
- Preventative maintenance
- Reported hazards
Proactive data changes from week to week, so it is a good idea to review the trends more frequently. Personally, I would share results weekly and do an in-depth trend analysis monthly.
WHAT TO DO WITH ALL THE DATA
Now that you have collected all this data, how do we analyze it? The good news is that you really don’t need any fancy program or statistical skills. A simple Excel Spreadsheet with a few charts does the trick.
This template makes it super easy to trend your data. Just enter the data into the data page and refresh the charts. Adjust the timeframe you want to look at (weekly, monthly, quarterly). You will have great visuals to share with your team.
Sharing the results is important. What is measured gets managed, but only when the people managing it know the measurements. Sharing also includes sharing it with employees. You will get the greatest effect when they see the results; there is an innate desire to improve personal performance. So, if they know how they are doing week over week, they will improve on their own.
CONDUCTING A TREND ANALYSIS
On a regular basis (monthly, quarterly, or annually), do a deep dive into your data. This will give you a better understanding of the behaviors and conditions at your company. Compare different data sets and different timeframes.
Your goal is to find problem areas and not to blame any one person or member of management. The focus should be identifying a problem and creating a plan to fix them.
Going back to the article “How to Prioritize the Most Important”, I talked about the Power of 3. The same rule applies here. Only identify 3 trends max that you want to focus on improving. Then create an action plan to improve them.
CONSISTENT TREND ANALYSIS
Consistently collecting and acting on trending data has a huge impact on any business. This will affect all areas of your business, not just safety. Remember, safety touches everything: quality, productivity, and even sales.
It is important that collecting trending data, creating reports – using the
Proactive Trend Analysis Template – and sharing the information is a weekly task for every safety manager. This consistent effort is worth the time you spend doing it ten-fold.
Download the Proactive Trend Analysis Template
Decide on two proactive metrics that you can start tracking. How can you track it numerically? Is it the number of times the behavior was done right or wrong, the policy was followed? Is it the days to complete a work order? Or, the number of pieces of debris at any given time (this one sounds crazy, I know, but it really works)?
Start sharing your data every week with your team. I love putting my data up on a monitor in the break room. The impact is amazing.
NOW IT’S YOUR TURN
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Hi, I'm Brye (rhymes with sky)! I am a self-proclaimed safety geek with two decades of general industry safety experience. Specializing in bringing safety programs to a world-class level and building a safety culture, I have trained and coached many safety managers, just like you, on how to effectively manage workplace safety in the real world. I would love to help you too.