Rethinking Safety Measurement Metrics

Journal of Safety Research

July 7, 2023

Exponent Senior Associate Elif Erkal, Ph.D., in collaboration with Construction Safety Research Alliance Executive Director Matthew Hallowell and Associate Director of Research Siddharth Bhandari, has published "Formal Evaluation of Construction Safety Performance Metrics and a Case for a Balanced Approach" in the Journal of Safety Research June 2023 edition.

In the construction sector, reliable metrics for measuring safety performance can be hard to come by. In their article, the researchers identify strengths and drawbacks of current construction safety performance evaluations and propose a framework for evaluating both existing and alternative safety metrics. While acknowledging the limitations of individual metrics, the authors propose how combining multiple safety metrics can more holistically capture construction safety performance.

Currently, the total recordable injury rate (TRIR) remains the predominant industry standard, but the indicator is only retrospective and fraught with issues ranging from statistical invalidity to underreporting to case management. TRIR can also be misleading as it includes varying levels of injury severity that may be evaluated equally.

The authors' study systematically evaluated the strengths and weaknesses of existing and alternative safety performance metrics according to six evaluation criteria: predictive, valid, objective, clear, functional, and important. They concluded that the use of multiple complementary construction safety metrics may result in a more complete evaluation of safety systems because the combined use of metrics can offset the respective strengths and weaknesses of individual approaches. For real-world applications, the authors believe this multipronged use of metrics can assist researchers and practitioners who seek more reliable indicators for intervention testing to understand construction safety performance trends and benchmark internally and externally.

Construction worker demonstrates safety techniques while working on the job.

"Formal Evaluation of Construction Safety Performance Metrics and a Case for a Balanced Approach"



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From the publication:  "As researchers and practitioners attempt to improve construction safety performance measurement and transition from traditional incident-based safety measurement, the need of evaluating and comparing such various metrics becomes evident and compelling."