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Defining health & safety key performance indicators (KPIs) in a machine shop

A machine shop can be a dangerous place. With all of the heavyweight machinery, moving parts, and heavy steels and other materials it is no wonder that the safety of everyone present needs to be forefront in everyone’s mind. However, safety in a machine shop is more than just putting up some posters reminding people to work safely; you need to have some way to track that everyone is maintaining a safe environment. This is where key performance indicators (KPIs) can be invaluable.

It is for this better control over employee health & safety that companies are going beyond their legal requirements for workplace safety and using the requirements of OHSAS 18001 to implement an Occupational Health & Safety Management System (OH&SMS). By putting a system in place that formalizes your process controls with respect to OH&S, and tracking these controls to know they are being maintained, you can better identify a problem before it happens and prevent injury or loss of life. KPIs are what are put in place to track these process controls.

KPIs: Knowing your processes are functioning as expected

OHSAS 18001, as well as the new draft international standard 45001 that is set to replace it, does not use the term “key performance indicator.” Still, there are requirements for operational planning and control and performance evaluation that necessitate knowing the OH&S criteria of your processes, and assessing that processes have been carried out as planned. The KPI for a process is just such a monitoring tool.

So, what is a key performance indicator? Quite simply, it is an aspect of your process that you can measure and monitor against a set of criteria for acceptance. This can be as simple as having an overall criterion for safety of zero lost time due to accidents per month, which you track. If you meet this target, your overall OH&S criteria are met, and you can say that your performance is as expected. If you do have a lost-time accident, then you do not meet your criteria and you need to take some corrective action to address the problem. The KPI tells you that corrective action is needed when you do not meet your expected target.

For more information on using corrective actions in the OH&SMS, see this article on 5 steps to take once a corrective action is initiated in your OHSAS 18001.

How can you take your OH&S KPIs to the next level?

Of course, no company wants to have any accidents that result in employees taking time off work, and any accident that causes lost time will be investigated for corrective action, so this is really a KPI that any company has even if they do not know they have it. So, what are some other KPIs that could be put in place in a machine shop that can monitor the environment for health & safety, and potentially even help to avoid accidents?

Here are a few to consider:

  • Minor First Aid Incidents: While a minor cut can be fixed easily, without much pain to the employee or time off work, it is estimated that there are hundreds of minor incidents for every major incident that happens in a workplace. If you have a KPI that looks at the minor injuries, and take corrective actions to correct the problems that cause these injuries, you can potentially prevent a major injury later and make your workplace safer overall.
  • Near Misses and Close Calls: Again, it is estimated that there are hundreds of close calls for every minor accident that occurs, so investigating and correcting the problems that cause a close call can improve your OH&S. Do heavy materials fall, but miss hitting people so that no one is hurt? Are machines used while safeguards are disabled and discovered while work is in process? These sorts of occurrences can be considered near misses, because if things happened in a slightly different manner they could become accidents.
  • Lock Out Procedure Audits: Do you have a system for locking out your equipment when it is being maintained, so that the machine is not started and you can keep your workers safe? If you audit this process, do you track the problems found in the audit so that you can take corrective actions? This can be another KPI to improve your OH&S.
  • Workplace Safety Audits: Just like the audits for your lock out procedures, do you have safety audits for your workplace looking at things like uncleaned spills, dangerous handling of equipment, and machine safety features? If so, you could have a KPI for the number of audit findings from these safety audits and work toward improvement in your workplace safety.
  • Worker Engagement in Safety: How well are your employees engaged in workplace safety? Do you have monthly safety communications? Are workers involved in recommending safety improvements in the workplace? Any of these worker engagement activities could have KPIs associated with them to help track how engaged your employees are in the safety environment.

KPIs: To drive improvement of health & safety

It is important to note that there can be some reluctance to monitor incidents such as near misses and minor injuries, since people can sometimes think that this will be used in order to assign blame or punish employees. As management, you need to work to remove this fear, because your commitment to occupational health & safety improvement can only come if you know the facts, so that you can correct systematic problems before they become deadly hazards.

To make good decisions, you need to have good data to drive those decisions; good corrective actions and continual improvement depend on you getting the right information.

To help you make your case for implementing OHSAS 18001, why not check out this free presentation  Project proposal for OHSAS 18001 Implementation.

Advisera Mark Hammar
Mark Hammar
Mark Hammar is a Certified Manager of Quality / Organizational Excellence through the American Society for Quality and has been a Quality Professional since 1994. Mark has experience in auditing, improving processes, and writing procedures for Quality, Environmental, and Occupational Health & Safety Management Systems, and is certified as a Lead Auditor for ISO 9001, AS9100, and ISO 14001.