Incorporating KPIs into your Safety Management System

Assume for a moment that your facility has the basis for a Safety Management System (SMS).  Are you measuring its effectiveness?  Are you looking at the trends to see what’s behind and what’s ahead?  Peter Drucker is quoted as saying, “what gets measured gets managed.”  Measuring the performance of your SMS is conducted through the use of Key Performance Indicators (KPIs).  KPIs will help you to demonstrate to all levels in your organization where your SMS stands.  Simplified, it’s based on the Deming Wheel, or Plan – Do – Check – Act (PDCA) model. 


  • Gather Support
    • Support from top management is an absolute.  Safety should not be considered the sole responsibility of the site Safety Lead/Team.
    • Do you have the support of leadership?  Have they committed to UAS (Understand – Accept – Support) the process?  Do you have members from other areas of the organization developing and supporting the framework around the KPIs? 
  • Identify Metrics
    • Identify the existing metrics that your organization uses. 
    • Is your organization solely meeting compliance (i.e. are you only tracking lagging indicators based on injury rate)?  Have you incorporated leading indicators into your metrics?  Have you established criteria around what is acceptable performance?  .
  • Communicate the Plan
    • Communication is a key factor in Safety.  Communicate early and often.
    • Do you have an effective plan to communicate established KPIs to all levels of your organization?


  • Start Small
    • If you are just beginning to establish KPIs or are looking to expand what you are measuring, start small, but just start.  Use the KISS (Keep it Simply Simple) method. 
    • You are tracking lagging indicators (e.g. total case incident rate), can you add one to two leading indicators to your KPIs?
  • Involve Others (outside of the Safety Team)
    • Involve other areas and multiple levels within the organization (front line employees and supervisors, Engineering, etc.). 
    • Do others in the organization have actionable and measureable “skin in the game”?  Is their input valued?
  • Establish Expectations
    • In your very busy work environment, starting small is vitally important if you are adding new expectations for employees, however establishing (and tracking adherence to) expectations is a must. 
    • What are the expectations around the established KPIs?


  • Measure Success
    • The information gathered from the KPIs must translate into success.  Use your lagging indicators as a basis for cross-checking your tracked leading indicators.
    • Are the KPIs that you are tracking resulting in a decrease in severity or incident rate?  Are risks being reduced?
  • Ensure Outputs Add Value
    • KPIs that you are tracking, must provide meaningful information.  P-D-C-A this individual component. 
    • Can I act on the information that the KPIs are providing?  What is the path forward?
  • Solicit Feedback
    • Don’t live in a “safety bubble”.  Get feedback from people in the organization and prepare to act on it.  Soft feedback is often just as important as hard data. 


  • Refine or Redefine
    • Take the information learned in the “Check” phase to refine your KPIs.  Don’t be afraid to change it up. 
    • Metric X isn’t providing insightful or actionable information, what are you missing?
  • Take Action
    • If it’s not working, do something different, but just do something.  If it is working, identify ways to make it better.
    • How can you continuously improve your organizations safety results?  What KPIs have you identified that you are not tracking?  How can you incorporate those KPIs into your SMS?
  • Achieve Sustainability
    • If you don’t put the systems in place to make capturing and reviewing your KPIs maintainable, you are expending unnecessary effort. 
    • Are these KPIs providing real value to your organization?

An effective SMS is vital in today’s lean work environments.  Establishing value-added KPIs help your organization evaluate the effectiveness of the SMS and can serve as a basis for continuously improving safety within your organization.

Source: Paper360 May/June 2019 – George Bower