Setting the Right G.O.A.L.S. for Safety

Setting the Right GOALS for Safety


By Josh Williams, Ph. D.

Leaders need to make sure they set intelligence safety goals to improve performance and prevent SIFs. Proper goal setting helps field leaders and employees understand the value of a unified greater purpose. They also set objective, actionable behaviors which should be integrated into daily activities. Research demonstrates that there is a statistically significant reduction in injuries when leaders effectively articulate a compelling vision and inspire employees to work towards goals that meet that mission (Hoffmeister et al., 2014). Also, a 10% improvement in employee’s understanding of organizational values and goals results in a 12.7% reduction in safety incidents (Gallup, 2017). The G.O.A.L.S. acronym is a helpful heuristic to set smart safety goals for the organization. Safety goals should have these elements:
G: Gettable and achievable. Safety goals need to be realistic. For example, it’s unwise for an organization with a high OSHA recordable rate to suddenly decide that “zero injuries” is the goal. This goal may not be achievable in the short run. Plus, people will be disappointed when someone “messes up the goal” by having an injury. It may also encourage the underreporting of injuries so the goal isn’t broken. Zero incidents is a good mission but shouldn’t be a targeted goal for most companies.
O: Observable and operationalized. Efforts toward goals should be observable. This means goals need to be clearly and behaviorally defined. For instance, leaders may set the goal of spending 40% of their time in the field or set a goal of a 4 high quality observations per month. Telling people to “think safety” is not an observable goal.
A: Accepted by employees. Employees should be involved determining the metrics and criteria associated with specific goals. This may include the number of safety lead tailboard meetings, facility audits conducted, and high quality observations completed. Employees are more likely to actively work toward goals when they actively participate in their development.
L: Learning culture focused. Goals should be part of a larger learning culture. Meeting goals and targets are important but not more critical than the learning that occurs through the pursuit of goals. For instance, setting goals to discuss close calls and incidents in all tailboard and post-job meetings is part of a broader purpose to prevent SIFs.
S: Specific. Goals should be detailed and not vague. Goals and slogans like “safety first” have limited impact. Specific goals should be observable and trackable. For instance, a field leader may set the goal to spend 30 minutes every morning talking with the crew about safety regardless of meetings and paperwork.

Use the G.O.A.L.S. acronym to set smart, achievable goals. Also remember that proactive, behavioral goals should be the focus instead of outcome statistics. Making smart moves on the front end (with smart goals) will take care of problems (SIFs) on the back end.

At Propulo, we help leaders develop smart goals to improve safety culture and prevent serious injuries and fatalities.