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Lagging Indicators

Last updated: February 9, 2017

What Does Lagging Indicators Mean?

Lagging indicators measure an organization’s incidents in the form of past accident statistics. Data can be expressed in terms of percentages, rates, or absolute numbers. Lagging indicators can be divided into positive and negative categories.

Safeopedia Explains Lagging Indicators

The most commonly used occupational health and safety lagging indicators are:

Negative lagging indicators:

  • Injuries and work-related illnesses in terms of Lost Time Incident Frequency (number of lost-time injuries x 1,000,000 divided by total hours worked in the accounting period)
  • Production days lost through sickness absence by category and activity (percentage of total work days lost by sickness absence)
  • Incidents or near misses including those with the potential to cause injury, illness or death
  • Complaints about work that is carried out in unsafe or unhealthy conditions
  • Number of early retirements
  • Worker's compensation costs

Positive lagging indicators:

  • The number of hours worked (by the total work force) without lost time injury
  • The number of working days since the last accident
  • Employee satisfaction (survey)

Lagging indicators are the traditional safety metrics used to indicate progress toward compliance with safety rules. These are the bottom-line numbers that evaluate the overall effectiveness of safety at the company.

The major disadvantage of only using lagging indicators of safety performance is that they tell you how many people got injured and how badly, but not how well the company is doing at preventing incidents and accidents. Thus, the reactionary nature of lagging indicators makes them a poor gauge of prevention.


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