An Ounce of Prevention: Leading Indicators Represent the Future of Proactive, Preventive Safety Performance Metrics

Trailing indicators (TIs), measurements taken after something undesirable has already occurred, are the traditional metrics that transportation organizations use to measure operational safety, health, and wellness performance. Various common TI measurements in maritime operations include Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recordable personal injury rates, allisions, collisions, groundings, cargo damage, and man overboard incidents. The severity and cost of each event are also commonly studied as TIs, which are considered historical measurements of undesirable events that have already had a negative impact on individual employees and an organization's bottom line. Conversely, leading indicators (LIs) are activities, behaviors, processes, and standards that lead to desired results from employees properly implementing their training and subsequently being held accountable for those actions. While a safety management system based on LIs will ultimately affect all measurements associated with TIs, the impact will be much broader in all performance fields and will be felt much farther upstream. This paper discusses the theoretical results of a safety management system based on LIs in maritime operations, which might achieve productivity improvements reflected in vessel run times, barge turn rates, and reduction in port times. These improvements may lead further to the desired results of reduced insurance premiums and other intangible benefits. The shift to management via LIs will change the company's entire culture, impacting everyone regardless of rank or position, and will likely result in significant performance improvements and additional cost savings.


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  • Accession Number: 01049808
  • Record Type: Publication
  • Files: TRIS
  • Created Date: May 15 2007 3:14AM