I was asked this question on a recent “Safe business = successful business” workshop webinar and I gave a decent answer, but – upon reflection – I didn’t go far enough to hammer the point home that whilst lagging indicators are great, these are outcomes and we therefore should be focussing much more on our inputs as this is what we can control.



The answer I gave, essentially, was: you need to consider what your areas of risk are and then go deep into them – think of the “inch wide, mile deep” principle – to find appropriate, quantifiable leading indicators.


Why? One of the key problems with many areas of safety is that people sometimes look at things too superficially and don’t go into enough depth. That’s why accidents often continue to happen.


As an example, in my specialist area of slips-and-falls, there are six key reasons why someone may slip (we call this CHIMES). Yet, the majority of buildings only look at one or two of these areas and even then, not in that much depth. So… slips-and-falls are, year after year, the largest cause of accident, injury and claim in most sectors.



If we’re looking at lagging indicators on slips-and-falls, we all deserve an F.


But here’s what I didn’t say in response to the question and should have done to elaborate on this point…


Fundamentally, lagging indicators are a waste of time in one key respect.


Consider this: we can have terrible inputs into our safety systems yet good outcomes (few accidents and low costs) thanks to luck.


Conversely, we could do everything right to lower risk – put in place proven, measurable methods to stop bad things from happening – and still suffer from incidents thanks to a combination of bad luck and the face that “accidents will happen”.


So, which is best and what does that mean for how to decide upon leading indicators?


You can only control what you can control.


If you’re looking to get fitter, you cannot control how your weight changes. But you can control what you eat and how often you exercise.


In sales, you cannot compel anyone to buy. But you can control how many emails you send, how many telephone calls you make, how many Linkedin messages you write.


In safety, you cannot control the outcome. You can only seek to reverse engineer the outcome and take steps – leading measures – to address the risk.



You’re only in control of the inputs, never the outputs. So you must focus on those inputs.


So, given that, we need to be putting a lot of effort into getting our leading indicators right. They need to be measurable, therefore manageable. I can’t tell you what exactly they should be (unless you want to ask me about leading indicators in the slip-and-fall space) but that’s the approach you need to take.


If you’d like to join an upcoming “Safe business = successful business” workshop webinar, you can register HERE. These take place every two weeks on Thursday at 4pm UK time.