Things are not going well in the fabrication shop.

Incidents are up, but they don’t seem to have much in common. Inspection results are inconsistent, as is the frequency of the inspections themselves.

There are reports of a missing rail guard here, and a small oil spill there, but those EHS Lagging Indicators don’t really give the safety manager the clear picture they need into that department.

But that safety pro is smart. They know that perhaps 90% of incidents in any workplace are traceable to behavioral issues based on workplace culture. So it’s often more about psychology and attitude than mechanical failures.

Important to know, because of the growing use of safety analytics. EHS Leading Indicators don’t just track previous injuries; they measure the factors that may have led up to those injuries. Accurate analytics, of course, depend on the quality and completeness of the data. Which means including human factors in the mix.

Maybe the fabrication workers are too committed to their jobs.

When the focus is on making the production numbers, or impressing one’s boss, it’s no secret that safety doesn’t always come first. Unfortunately, a culture of relentless competition can incentivize cutting corners.

The supervisor rarely advocates for this, but for the sake of a good monthly report, they can learn to turn a blind eye to it. Other workers notice this, and they too learn the wrong lesson. There’s always a reason for those cut corners; standing on a box placed on scaffolding to reach something is easier than rebuilding the scaffolding.

But there’s also a reason for the safety rules forbidding it.

A higher number of incidents can easily be anticipated in a ‘super-committed’ workplace culture, where both the supervisor and their charges may share some fault.

Or, maybe they just aren’t committed enough.

A ‘under-committed’ culture is the other common setting for elevated noncompliance and incident numbers. Digging into the analytics may reveal more problems on the night shift, where workers might find more opportunity to slack off generally, and ignore safety rules specifically.

On any shift, a swagger culture can develop from groups of rebellious and socially diverse personalities. Their co-workers are typically aware of the problem, but dare not speak up. So the problems continue.

Shift supervisors themselves, especially on the night shift, can also be just as under-committed as their charges. Even earnest workers get frustrated and lose motivation when they don’t feel like they’re being supported from above.

In absence of consequences, taking some risk to avoid extra effort becomes an embedded part of the workplace culture.

We can’t fix the issues until we understand the issues.

When EHS Leading Indicators predict that problems will continue or escalate, we can use analytics to slice the data in new ways. Isolate factors such as supervisors, shifts, and sub-groups of workers.

By identifying the types of incidents that are generally associated with either over-committed or under-committed workplace cultures, it’ll be easier next time to zero in on those factors.

True enough, turning around a problematic, self-sustaining workplace culture can be harder than the typical hardware-based corrective action. But at least the safety and management teams are clear about the challenge they’re faced with. And that’s a start.

What if there’s more than one factor?

Forensic analysis of airline accidents often reveals that more than one issue contributed to the disaster. Typically, it was some mechanical failure that wouldn’t have been fatal without some errant human behavior that compounded it.

Safety managers are smart to keep this possibility in mind when trying to figure out what the numbers mean. A problematic workplace culture may permit or exacerbate a dangerous condition without directly causing it.

Your physician knows that your test results may not point directly to the cause of your health issue. But they use their experience and analytic skills to see beyond the numbers themselves, for a diagnosis based on a wider web of known human factors and associations.

In our field, we use EHS Lagging Indicators to assess the past, and EHS Leading Indicators to predict and plan for the future. But understanding the role of workplace cultures, behaviors and attitudes are often what helps the data make sense.

Wondering what else you can do with EHS Leading Indicators?

Safety Indicators cloud-based EHS software offers a wealth of analytic options for understanding and correcting workplace safety issues. Customized dashboards for each stakeholder keeps them focused on what they most need to do their job.

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