As businesses work to reduce incidents and injuries among their employees, it’s natural to look for some way to quantify that progress. While it may be subject to some controversy, the lost time injury frequency rate (LTIFR) is one way to do it.
According to the WSIB, lost time injury rates in Ontario – which were already quite low to begin with – declined by about 39 percent over the last decade, suggesting that employers are making solid progress towards creating safer workplaces. The rest of Canada has followed suit, with Saskatchewan, Manitoba, and Quebec also seeing significant decreases.
Let’s take a look at what LTIFR is and what you can do to improve yours.
An organization's lost time injury frequency rate is a proxy measurement of its safety performance. It represents the number of lost time injuries that have occurred within a given accounting period, relative to the total number of hours worked in that period. It’s a lagging indicator of safety performance that can help businesses benchmark the HSE performance of their industry.
A lost time injury happens when an employee suffers a work-related injury that results in any of the following:
- Being off work past the day of the accident
- Loss of wages
- Permanent disability or impairment
Since the LTIFR number is always quite small, it’s standard practice to multiply it by 200,000 (though note that some companies and industries use a base rate of 1,000,000 instead). Companies, then, report the figure as the number of lost time injuries per million hours worked.
Limitations of LTIFR
It’s important to note that this number does not include two key things:
- The severity of the injuries
- Pre-existing conditions not sustained during the reporting period
It’s also critical to understand that a low LTIFR does not equal a safe work environment, nor does a high rate mean a company is unsafe or not committed to safety. It can be a somewhat superficial way of looking at health and safety, but it’s often used because it’s simple to calculate and is a convenient way to compare safety performance across workplaces and industries.
How to Calculate Your LTIFR
You only need two pieces of information to calculate your organization's LTIFR:
- Number of lost time injuries in given accounting period
- Number of hours worked in given accounting period
Once you have that information at hand, you can figure out your LTIFR by plugging the data into the following equation:
LTIFR = # LTIs in accounting period / # hours worked in accounting period
To make it easier to interpret and benchmark, multiply the (very tiny) number you get by 200,000 (or one million).
A construction company had 14 people suffer lost time injuries at work last year. The total hours worked in this period (for all employees) was 800,000.
LTIFR = (14 / 800,000) = 0.0000175
Then, the number is multiplied by 200,000 to make it easier to use and interpret.
LTIFR = (14 / 800,000) x 200,000 = 3.5
With their LTIFR calculated, this company can compare it to the rate for the construction industry as a whole. It won't give them a comprehensive picture of their safety performance, but they'll know whether their injury rates are higher or lower than the industry average.
Improving Your LTIFR for Better Workplace Safety
First and foremost, we need to be clear about one thing: taking measures to avoid loss of work time is not an acceptable way to improve an LTIFR. False reporting doesn’t benefit anyone, and an inaccurate LTIFR can produce a false sense of progress towards safety in the workplace.
So how can you improve your rate? The best answer is one you might not expect: stop focusing on it.
Health and safety professional emphasize that a preoccupation with outcome-based performance measures drives underreporting, which actually increases the dangers that workers face on the job (see How to Build an HSE Incentive Program that Works to learn more). Instead, focus on implementing controls that address identified hazards and minimize employee risk.
What might this look like? Here are some examples:
- Providing workers with appropriate PPE
- Require employees to complete comprehensive safety training, and monitoring them to ensure the knowledge is being applied
- Gamifying safety by offering rewards and recognition to the workers who engage in safe work practices
- Conducting annual audits and inspections to identify any new or persisting hazards
- Securing buy-in from top-level management to help foster a culture of safety and transparency within the company
A Word of Caution About Using LTIFR
A lot of ink has been spilled over the drawbacks of using lost time injury frequency rate to measure safety performance. Despite this, it remains the most commonly used safety metric across North America. For businesses that are tracking it, it’s important to keep a couple things in mind.
Unless two businesses are working on the exact same projects in the same conditions and have the same culture of transparency, an LTIFR is not a reliable way to compare their performance.
Lagging vs. Leading
LTIFR is a lagging indicator of safety. While it may tell you where you once were, it gives no indication of how you should move forward or what might help you get better. It’s focused on the past – you want to focus on the future (learn more about Leveraging Leading Indicators to Drive Safety).
None of this is to say that LTIFR is inherently bad or good – it’s simply one measure that can help you gauge your company's safety performance. It should be considered alongside other lagging and leading indicators.
In addition to measuring your lost time injury frequency rate, be sure to consider things like:
- Injury severity
- Frequency of management walkthroughs
- Frequency of safety audits
- Worker participation in safety programs
- Percentage of workers who have completed HSE training
You'll only know how to improve and move your organization forward if you have the whole picture.