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Safety Metrics - Red Light / Green Light

My young son has spent the early days of this summer playing his own version of the classic kids game “Red Light / Green Light”. Because I’m an occupational safety attorney (and, therefore, the polar opposite of a “fun dad”), he got me thinking about the topic of leading and lagging safety metrics.

In case the tie-in isn’t obvious to you (and any young children in your life are probably thankful if it isn’t…), the utility of the “yellow” light as a safety tool in a red, yellow, green traffic signal varies depending upon whether individual drivers view the yellow as a leading or lagging indicator (or “metric”). If you view yellow as a leading indicator that the light will soon be red, you should instinctively hit your brakes and come to a stop before the signal turns red. If you view the yellow as a lagging indicator that the light had just been green, you may step on the gas to rush through the intersection.*

* I know, I know…I’m oversimplifying the psyche of the ordinary red light runner, and probably perverting the concept of leading and lagging metrics a little bit in the process. It’s a free article, cut me some slack…

Put simply, lagging metrics tell you what’s already happened. Leading metrics, on the other hand, purport to tell you what could happen. Knowing what “could happen” in an occupational safety context can help you identify and eliminate unsafe conditions and behaviors. Identifying and acting upon the proper leading metrics for your workplace is the very best way to ensure that your employees and your company are as safe as they can be.

Leading safety metrics include such things as: 1) employee safety concerns raised and addressed; 2) safety audit findings closed; 3) near misses (where injuries nearly occurred, but were avoided); and, 4) first aid cases (where injuries occurred, but were not serious enough to be “recorded” under OSHA’s regulations).

When assessing the state of your organization’s employee safety program, engage an experienced professional. An occupational safety attorney can review your programs, identify areas for improvement, and help you establish world-class employee safety systems to protect your most valuable asset – your people.


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