Leading indicators of system safety: Monitoring and driving the organizational safety potential

Teemu Reiman (Corresponding Author), Elina Pietikäinen

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

    167 Citations (Scopus)


    An indicator can be considered any measure – quantitative or qualitative – that seeks to produce information on an issue of interest. Safety indicators can play a key role in providing information on organizational performance, motivating people to work on safety and increasing organizational potential for safety. We will describe the challenges of monitoring and driving system safety. Currently, the same lead indicators are used – explicitly or implicitly – for both purposes. The fact that the selection and use of safety performance indicators is always based on a certain understanding (a model) of the sociotechnical system and safety is often forgotten. We present a theoretical framework for utilizing safety performance indicators in safety–critical organizations that incorporates three types of safety performance indicators – outcome, monitor and drive indicators. We provide examples of each type of indicator and discuss the application of the framework in organizational safety management. We argue that outcome indicators are lag indicators since outcomes always follow something; they are the consequences arising from multiple other situational and contextual factors. Monitor and drive indicators are lead indicators. The main function of the drive indicators is to direct the sociotechnical activity in the organization by motivating certain safety-related activities. Monitor indicators provide a view on the dynamics of the organization: the practices, abilities, skills and motivation of the personnel – the organizational potential for safety. We conclude that organizations should better acknowledge the significance of monitor and drive indicators in safety management.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)1993-2000
    Number of pages8
    JournalSafety Science
    Issue number10
    Publication statusPublished - 2011
    MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


    • Safety performance indicators
    • system safety
    • safety culture
    • safety management


    Dive into the research topics of 'Leading indicators of system safety: Monitoring and driving the organizational safety potential'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

    Cite this