INDICATORS normally refer to the condition, level or status of something, and are usually measurable and presented numerically.
Ideal indicator systems contain information used both to define activities which prevent incidents and to measure the outcomes achieved by safety systems.
Indicators have probably been emerged because humans like them. They can tell us something understandable, and provide guidance in complex and difficult areas.
A debate on the use of indicators often occurs in the wake of major accidents. These discussions concern such issues as the nature of an indicator, what information it can or cannot provide, and how appropriate yardsticks can be developed.
Questions addressed include the distinction between reactive and proactive indicators and how to develop yardsticks which can give early and reliable information for averting major accidents.
This booklet addresses the indicator concept, the difference between proactive and reactive indicators, and the interaction between indicators and human/organisational factors.
The aim is to present a simple overview of the way indicators can be used to monitor contributors to risk, how they can support decisions or mislead, and how they can affect organisational practice and the motivation of individuals.
No pat answers are provided. Instead, the purpose is to challenge, involve and encourage reflection.
Indicators can sometimes be perceived as unchallengeable. This booklet seeks to make it easier to question them and to illuminate various conditions which underpin their development and application.