We’ve detected that you are using an outdated browser. This will prevent you from accessing certain features. Update browser

oil rig worker pointing

The evidence base for OSH leading indicators

Establishing what is known about how leading indicators improve safety.

The Foundation’s first goal is to establish the best evidence and insight to understand the complex factors that affect safety.  Leading indicators (LIs) are used widely as performance metrics across many industries in the belief that using more proactive measures of safety will have beneficial impact on accident and incident rates. 

It is unclear whether robust evidence exists to support the use of leading indicators in occupational safety and health (OSH), and whether it demonstrates that they make a difference to safety outcomes in terms of preventing or reducing incidents. This work will review what is known about the effectiveness of leading indicators in OSH and establish the current evidence base for them.

Leading indicators have been defined by the National Safety Council as “proactive, preventive and predictive measures that monitor and provide current information about the effective performance, activities and processes of an EHS [environment, health and safety] management system that drive the identification and elimination or control of risks in the workplace that can cause incidents and injuries.”[1] A 2020 report from the government of Alberta on work-place safety states “A general lack of standard practices associated with the use of leading indicators complicates things for everyone. As yet, there is limited scientific evidence available to determine which leading indicators should be used when.”[2]

Researchers from York Health Economics Consortium (YHEC) have been commissioned to look at this for the Foundation.  They are experts in the methods necessary to review bodies of literature and will be supported by an expert panel of safety practitioners. They will conduct a rapid assessment of the literature to establish what evidence exists.  The work will include recommendations for positive change that will have a positive impact on safety outcomes.

Project findings will be reported in early Spring 2024 and we expect that the work will generate key insights into the evidence base for leading indicators in OSH. For organisations that already apply them, the insights from this research will give evidence to improve, refine or consolidate their use of LIs.  However, the report may highlight the need for further evidence generation to demonstrate the effectiveness of leading indicators to improve safety outcomes. Presently, they are being used without that explicit knowledge.

Please get in touch via the form below for further information on the work.


[1] Campbell Institute (2019) An implementation guide to leading indicators National Safety Council

[2] Government of Alberta (2020) Leading indicators for workplace health and safety : a user guide

Sign up for news from the Foundation

Latest blogs

Can't find what you are looking for?

Hit enter or the arrow to search Hit enter to search

Search icon

Are you looking for?