October 8, 2020

AIHA, CSHS Publish Guidance Document on Best Practices for Leading Health Metrics

Through the Center for Safety and Health Sustainability (CSHS)—an inter-association initiative committed to leadership, insights, and education in sustainable health and safety—AIHA has published a guidance document, Best Practice Guide for Leading Health Metrics in Occupational Hygiene (PDF), intended to help OEHS professionals use leading health metrics to identify health concerns and hazards, prevent exposure, and control risk in the workplace.

Beginning in early 2019, CSHS convened a diverse team of OEHS professionals, under AIHA’s leadership, to develop a guide that would emphasize the value of leading metrics and develop a set of best practices for their use. The resulting document provides examples of leading metrics, direction on establishing a balanced set of leading metrics, and four appendices, including a glossary of terms and an annotated bibliography of resources. The guide is intended to be used by practitioners and managers throughout the OEHS community, including those in industrial hygiene, occupational medicine, occupational health nursing, engineering, and human resources; across all industry sectors and business categories; and in organizations of all sizes.

The new CSHS guide defines a leading health metric as “a measurable, meaningful, actionable, evidence-based indicator that can be used to monitor, predict, influence or manage exposures, hazards, actions, and conditions of work that may impact worker health and well-being.” Examples include the percentage of employees with health insurance, ratio of OEHS professionals to employees, presence of a strategic plan with measurable objectives for health or wellness endeavors, and many more. Leading metrics can help OEHS professionals predict and influence occupational health and safety outcomes and promote behaviors and actions that correlate with improved worker health.

Traditionally, however, the most common tool used in occupational health to determine areas of concern is the lagging metric, also known as a retrospective indicator, which measures occurrences such as injury and illness rates and prevalence of disease. Not only does this mean that the resulting interventions are not preventative, as worker health was already affected before data collection occurred—lagging metrics may also be misleading, since the absence of documented illness does not necessarily mean that harmful exposures are not taking place. Lagging metrics also typically do not encourage behavioral changes that reduce workplace risk.

CSHS was formed in 2011 by AIHA, the American Society of Safety Professionals, and the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health. The Canadian Society of Safety Engineering joined CSHS in 2013. Further examples of the Center’s work can be found on its website.