I recently carried out a benchmarking exercise for a valued client (“Aren’t they all valued Steve?” Yes of course they are). This involved trawling through our records to find safety metrics for organisations operating in the same industry sector and more interestingly researching some performance data from company annual reports.

Because JOMC represents the pinnacle of integrity all of the data was rendered anonymous before being used in the exercise, despite the annual report figures being very much in the public domain.

The first area of interest in an annual report is not what safety metrics are given within, dear reader, but are there any safety metrics at all? Does the chairman’s foreword mention safety at all or does he just drone on about shareholder value and return on capital employed? How much of the report is devoted to the safety performance and how deep do you have to dig to find it?

Tape measures in ascending length

Now, to be fair to the poor souls that write these things – they’re legally required to present certain financial figures and to provide enough information for potential investors to make a judgement as to whether to gamble on their stock. Also for existing investors to judge if the board are seriously undervaluing their contribution and should in fact pay themselves more and so on. But what is really revealing is what is reported on beyond the financial requirements because that is where the true values of the organisation are revealed.

Actual safety metrics reported are the next things to consider

Once again to be fair there have to be some common metrics or no comparisons can be made and the SI units of safety performance seem to be fatalities and one day lost time injuries. It’s rare but some organisations also report on the lower order OSHA statistics such as restricted workday and first aid cases as well. Near miss reporting rates are as rare as successful England penalty shoot outs.

Finally, consider the tone of the safety section of the report. Is there any passion or enthusiasm involved? The safety performance of one organisation (that unfortunately must remain nameless) had slipped back to the point where they were almost an average performer in their industry sector. The board were plainly extremely disappointed that their safety performance was only better than average and they said so in the report and also that steps would be taken to improve. Sadly you don’t often see this level of commitment.

So where is this rant going?

Well ask yourselves to what extent do your communications (internal and external) reinforce the importance of safety especially those that need not include a safety message?

  • How passionate is the message?
  • What is the status of the individual delivering the message?
  • How attractively is the message presented and how prominent is it?
  • When you compare yourselves to other organisations are you aiming for best in class?
  • What are the measures that you use?

If you’re not proud enough to publish your current performance, you shouldn’t hide it away. Look to improve things so you can shout about it next year. Safety excellence is not down to chance.