Reed Smith Client Alerts

Recently, the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA or agency) held a public stakeholder meeting regarding leading safety indicators, during which the agency invited employers and industry associations to provide information regarding employer experiences with the use of such indicators. OSHA did not specify whether this information would be used in a future rulemaking or guidance publication, although leading safety indicators have in recent years been the focus of other federal and state safety agencies as well as guidance from industry trade associations, such as the Center for Chemical Process Safety. Topics discussed at OSHA’s stakeholder meeting included characteristics of effective leading indicators, toolbox talks, the use of technology in measuring safety, and reporting violations and discipline.

Authors: Benjamin H. Patton Lauren Weaver

On November 7, 2019, OSHA held a public stakeholder meeting on safety key performance indicators (KPIs). During this meeting, the agency sought input from employers and industry groups on leading and lagging safety KPIs. Specifically, OSHA aimed to gather information about: (1) how companies regularly implement leading indicators; (2) how the information is used to strengthen work protection best practices; (3) the possibility of creating a digital library of leading indicators accessible on the OSHA website; and (4) next steps for OSHA’s leading and lagging indicators.  The agency did not specify how this information would be used and, specifically, whether it would be utilized to develop a future rulemaking or guidance document.

Several agency representatives were present, including Lauren Sweatt, the OSHA Deputy Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health. Invited participants included safety researchers and organizations, as well as industry representatives from construction and contractors, farming and grocery, paper manufacturing, heavy manufacturers, recycling, oil and gas, healthcare and hospitals, small businesses, and insurance. Reed Smith participated as an observer.

In general, industry representatives spoke positively about the effectiveness of leading safety indicators over lagging indicators, which is consistent with recommendations from other agencies including the U.S. Chemical Safety Board (CSB). Meeting participants described how the use of leading safety indicators consistently correlated with reduced incident rates and helped unite management and hourly employees around safe work practices.

In preparation for the meeting, OSHA published its Using Leading Indicators to Improve Safety and Health Outcomes guidelines. The publication describes quality leading indicators as specific, measurable, accountable, reasonable, and timely, and provides examples of what OSHA considers to be effective versus ineffective KPIs. It also describes the methods OSHA recommends for employers to use in developing effective and efficient leading indicators, including the use of data that the organization already collects to achieve safety or health goals.