When you want to track and analyze the safety of a mining company, where do you start? The first thing that probably comes to mind is how many incidents occurred in the last year. But the problem with looking at these kinds of stats is that they only measure the harm, loss, or damage that has already been done.

If you want to improve the safety of a mining operation, you need to track the performance indicators that will show you where the safety problems are before they manifest in an incident.

Sounds great, right? But what, exactly, should you be keeping an eye on? Read on to learn about the leading safety KPIs every mining company should be paying attention to.

Why You Should Be Monitoring KPIs in the First Place

Mining is an inherently risky activity, and it's impossible to completely eliminate the danger involved in extraction. But keeping a close watch on key performance indicators can help your company ensure that:

  • There is clear accountability for health and safety management and performance
  • Processes are in place to prevent incidents from occurring
  • Employees and contractors are engaged in appropriate and relevant training
  • Performance is reported accurately, both internally and externally
  • Targets are in place to promote continuous improvement

There are two main types of indicators: leading and lagging. Since each type tells you something different about your company, each type should be tracked.

Lagging Indicators

Lagging indicators are the traditional safety metrics that most of us are familiar with. They measure a company’s incidents by examining past accident statistics, such as:

Unfortunately, this information doesn't provide an indication of how well the company is doing at preventing accidents.

Leading Indicators

Leading indicators, on the other hand, emphasize future safety performance and incident prevention. They are proactive in nature and help gauge the health and safety status of a business regardless of how many incidents occur. Examples include:

  • Safety training
  • Reduction in risk factors (JHAs, FLHAs, etc.)
  • Employee perception surveys
  • Safety audits

(Learn more about Leveraging Leading Indicators to Drive Safety.)

Monitoring Safety Performance in the Mining Industry

There are five categories that key performance indicators tend to fall into:

  1. Commitment and accountability
  2. Planning and implementation
  3. Training, behaviour, and culture
  4. Monitoring and reporting
  5. Performance

Let’s take a closer look at some of the main indicators your business should be monitoring for each of these categories.

1. Commitment and Accountability

These indicators measure how committed management is to developing and implementing a comprehensive safety program.

  • Safety and health commitments have been established and clearly communicated to employees and contractors
  • External audits are conducted regularly to confirm that responsibilities are fully understood and have been adequately communicated to employees and contractors
  • External audits are conducted to assess the effectiveness of the process for communicating safety commitments
  • Safety budget as a percentage of the overall operating budget

2. Planning and Implementation

This category includes indicators that measure how effectively a company has planned and implemented their safety program.

  • Processes are established to plan and manage safety and health controls
  • There is a written health and safety management system
  • Company-wide acknowledgement that safety is a shared responsibility (find out why Health and Safety in the Workplace Is Everyone's Responsibility)
  • Health and safety program includes:
    • Specific objectives and targets
    • Hazard identification, risk assessment, and control processes
    • Roles and responsibilities of management
    • Inspection and audit protocols
    • Health and safety record maintenance

3. Training, Behaviour, and Culture

Training is a critical part of creating a safe environment in any workplace. It not only teaches employees safe conduct and practices at work, but also reinforces good behaviours through regular refresher sessions. Important indicators include:

  • Percentage of employees able to correctly identify hazards and take action to prevent incidents
  • Percentage of employees who understand that safe behaviour is a key component of controlling risk in the workplace
  • Frequency of refresher training
  • Percentage of refresher training sessions completed on time
  • Frequency of training needs analysis
  • Planned routine safety checks versus completed routine safety checks
  • Percentage of employees assessed for fitness for work
  • Degree of openness in reporting health and safety concerns

4. Monitoring and Reporting

Keeping track of and reporting on health and safety data allows companies to compare current and past performance. It can give a good indication of how well (or not) a health and safety program is working and offer insight into where improvements can be made. Indicators that should be monitored include:

  • Frequency of health and safety performance monitoring and reporting to internal and external parties
  • Extent to which performance metrics are clearly defined, consistently applied, and re-assessed on a regular basis
  • Extent to which data is used to identify trends and guide future health and safety decision-making
  • Effectiveness with which monitoring and audits are communicated to relevant parties

5. Performance

Finally, it’s crucial to evaluate performance. This category includes traditional indicators, as well as indicators that help gauge how a company is doing in relation to its peers. These indicators should include:

  • Percentage increase or decrease in total reportable incidents over the previous year
  • Total hours worked
  • Percentage reduction in exposure hours to hazardous materials/activities
  • Degree to which safety performance is benchmarked against industry peers

Conclusion

Businesses have a responsibility to provide safe and healthy workplaces for their employees, even when conditions, like working inside a mine shaft or around heavy machinery, make that challenging. By relying on (mostly) leading safety performance indicators like those noted above, mining organizations can proactively identify potential threats to worker safety and take action to remedy them.

It’s simply not true that safety KPIs must revolve around injury and incident statistics. The five categories we discussed are complementary and, together, cover the entire spectrum of health and safety activities – from planning and communication to performance, monitoring, and reporting.

An effective safety program must be comprehensive. By setting a combination of leading and lagging performance indicators for each area, you can cover all your bases and ensure you’re providing the safest work environment possible for your employees.