The Safety Performance Cycle: Success Made Simple

By Bryan McWhorter
Last updated: April 4, 2022
Key Takeaways

At the heart of safety is a pattern that is easy to understand and build on.

There is genius in simplicity. The safety performance cycle is simple to understand and yet it’s the most powerful concept I know for building an effective and lasting safety program.


The effectiveness of any safety program rests on the ability of those in the organization to recognize and address safety issues on a continuous basis. The safety performance cycle equips employees to do just that.


The Safety Performance Cycle

There are five components of a safety management system:

  1. Hazard identification and control
  2. Safety training
  3. Safety inspections
  4. Incident investigations
  5. Documentation and reporting

This is the starting point and foundation of safety.

Notice that the first three components all build on each other. These are the steps of the safety performance cycle.

It is a continuous process made up of the following:

  1. Capture all hazards connected with activities, tools, equipment, and the work environment. Make sure these are all documented on up-to-date Hazard Identification Risk Assessments (HIRAs). Continuously update HIRAs based on information provided from the safety performance cycle.
  2. Provide safety training to cover identified hazards and control measures. Create independent safety programs based on identified hazards, such as hearing conservation, confined spaces, fire protection, and hot work.
  3. Schedule daily inspections to uncover danger and address it. This must be viewed as an important part of the daily work routine. Use information learned and go back to step one.

According to the 80/20 principle, 20% of your efforts will bring about 80% of your results. For safety initiatives, the 20% that will bring about the biggest return is the safety performance cycle.


This is the foundation that will support all other safety efforts. If the safety performance cycle is not in place, all your other safety efforts will be weakened.

(Learn more in The Proper Way to Conduct a Safety Audit)

Simplicity Enables Success

Simplify your safety program to make it easier to understand for those you want to keep safe. The people performing the work should feel confident about workplace safety. Ability breeds confidence and the more they understand safety and take pride in their knowledge of it, the more motivated they will be to apply what they know. After all, success lies not in knowledge itself, but in the application of that knowledge.

We tend to avoid things that are too complex or difficult to understand. When we lack confidence, it's easy to ignore problems and procrastinate. Unfortunately, safety programs can become quite complex. We often over scrutinize data such as total recordables and first aid cases, and perform trend analyses looking to uncover ways to reduce incidents.

I have been in safety committee meetings where they seemed to believe safety was driven and controlled by spreadsheets. Nothing could be further from the truth. Safety is about people, not numbers. Behavior will always be the biggest driver of safety and performance.

(Learn about The Top 4 Levers That Will Drive Safety in 2022)

Equip Individuals to Stay Safe

People are at the center of the safety performance cycle. Success in any initiative, project, or task comes down to the motivation and ability of the individuals involved.

Most of us are motivated to stay safe – no one wants to get hurt. But our minds are often more focused on accomplishing our work rather than doing it safely. After all, the work is what we're being paid to do.

Because of this, safety must be seamlessly blended into work routines and become habitual.

People take pride in what they know and what they do. No one wants to admit they don't understand something or aren't sure what to do next. When we equip employees with simple safety values they can follow, the information becomes intuitive and easy to apply. Safety becomes a source of pride and professionalism, and this increases all levels of work performance.

According to studies in Europe and the United States, a safety program’s financial return on investment (ROI) can increase productivity, improve customer service, reduce turnover, and provide savings thanks to fewer injuries and lower workers’ compensation costs. When workers know they are valued and can work safely, their focus can go on performing their work tasks with confidence and pride.

Implementing the Safety Performance Cycle

How would you rate your workplace's use of the three main components that make up the safety performance cycle?

Each is easy to understand and measure. Make this your foundation for safety and focus on developing each component:

  1. Regularly update HIRAs
  2. Create safety training programs that cover all identified hazards and safety controls
  3. Daily routines must include safety inspections that are simple, focused, and brief

When these are in place and integrated as part of the work routine, your safety program will become self-monitoring, self-regulating, and self-correcting. Injuries will go down while worker pride will go up.

There is genius in simplicity, but you don't have to be a genius to look like one. Simply implement the safety performance cycle, watch safety improve alongside performance. Then sit back, smile, and let everyone draw their own conclusions.

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Written by Bryan McWhorter | Lead Safety Advisor, Author, Writer, Speaker

Bryan McWhorter

Bryan McWhorter is a safety professional with eight years of experience in driving and teaching safety. Bryan gained his knowledge and experience as the safety officer and Senior Trainer for Philips Lighting. Philips is a strong health and well-being company that promotes a safety first culture.

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