Leading indicators have to be timely, meaningful metrics, and they have to be something you can act on. “These drivers help you to know whether or not you are headed in the direction of a goal, and they help you adjust behaviors, in real-time, when needed,” explained Vi Hartfield, Corporate Health & Safety Manager/Leadership at Rudolph Foods.

Vi explained the value of leading indicators at Rudolph Foods when we sat down with her to talk about the food manufacturer’s best-in-class safety program.

As the world’s largest producer of pork rinds, Rudolph Foods has been producing the best tasting pork rinds for more than six decades. Rudolph Foods is an example of an organization that’s able to identify, reduce, and eliminate safety and health risks thanks to safety technology.

During our conversation about safety, Vi shared a variety of strategic insights and practical knowledge about how Rudolph Foods is using technology to improve safety and health outcomes.

That conversation included how they’ve been able to use leading indicators and other safety metrics to prevent worker injuries and illnesses, and create an engaged, empowered, and proactive culture of safety. “One of the biggest changes for us [thanks to technology] is that we’re not reactive; we’re able to be proactive with safety,” explains Vi.

Keep reading to learn more about how Rudolph Foods defines effective leading indicators, and how the culture has shifted since using them.

Developing Leading Indicators

safety leading indicators

Prior to using safety technology, Vi says the company recognized they had near-misses and/or injuries, but they didn’t have the ability to use data to know exactly what to do to minimize those hazards and risks for the future. “Prior, the entire structure was just harder to manage. Without iReportSource, we really were not able to capture all that data, which is step one.”

Vi says that having iReportSource gave Rudolph Foods the structure to be able to efficiently compile and then use that data to improve safety.

The result was metrics that fit these criteria:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Easily reported/identified
  • Able to be gathered in a timely way

“Now we can know in administration, operations, engineering-wise, and behavior-wise, how we are doing,” says Vi. As just one example, they know their top types of injuries at any given time and what they are associated with. So they’re able to continually take that information and eliminate as much risk as possible, even as conditions change. “So we can be mindful and strategic about what we can do, across every single plant, so we can minimize all our risks and hazards, and do in a timely manner.”

Becoming a True Learning Organization

“Before iReportSource, we were doing everything manually,” explains Vi, which made predictive and preventative measures much more challenging. “Having seven sites, it was very challenging for us to be able to get accurate data, with as much paperwork that is required,” says Vi.

Now, that paperwork process is drastically streamlined and simplified thanks to safety technology. And, all sites can learn from one another, and leverage all the shared safety data so every single site can become incrementally safer, together. So not only are teams able to be more efficient and things are automated where possible, but the information is being shared so every site can become safer, thanks to the data they share. “Having those ongoing, accurate KPIs so we can pinpoint and compare across plants and use that to strategize has been tremendous,” says Vi.

Having data readily available—data that can share a rich story—has also shifted the way employees think about improving safety.

“The data also helps you show that there is a better way of doing things differently, and ‘Here is why.’ So it has changed the behavior from supervisors when discussing issues,” says Vi. If before the culture felt that it was more about blaming people for incidents or hazards, that has completely gone away now. “It isn’t about that, because we have the data to tell the story. It’s about what else can we do, from administration to engineering controls, to minimize the risk and improve safety and to learn together.” 

A Shift In Accountability

One thing is clear: At Rudolph Foods, safety isn’t seen as “someone else’s job.” Team members have a shared sense of accountability—both as individuals, but as a team too, when it comes to supporting safety.

In the past, it might have been team leaders who would have come up with some of the leading indicators or safety-related goals.

near miss data and corrective actions

But now team leaders receive leading indicators, goals, and other ideas and suggestions from employees, since employees feel that strong sense of ownership, responsibility, and accountability regarding the safety program. “What that sounds like coming from supervisors is, ‘This is what my employees are seeing…’” says Vi. “Employees are now looking for ways to interpret the leading indicators and to come up with those goals themselves,” she explains.

Part of that shift in accountability has also just been because data has been made so much more accessible and visible, and team members are more informed than ever. “We have that base of data, and someone can walk into a location, and know the number of near misses that are happening at the plant. And everybody knows that number. So if we have leading indicators that let us know we’re doing something right (or a place to improve), people know that, too.”

Owning Safety

ownership of safety culture

Not only has accountability shifted, Vi says it’s been such a pivotal shift to have employees identifying their own hazards, seeing how that can impact their own health and safety. “They are participating in safety, and able to see the real hazards on their job on a day to day basis. We’re opening their eyes and they are able to participate, see, and interpret in their own terms. They own their safety efforts, rather than just us driving it, because it’s needed,” says Vi.

“They have an ownership mindset where they know they can drive change and impact their role for the better because they have a tool, in their hands, that they didn’t have before. I can’t wait to continue putting iReportSource in the hands of employees,” she adds.

Rewarding the Right Behaviors

Rudolph Foods also has a reward system for employees to encourage the right, proactive safety behaviors. They can tie those desired behaviors to rewards, and employees are part of that entire process. “We are celebrating what may be seen as ‘small wins.’ Those are big to us,” says Vi. “Being able to constantly and consistency apply these steps—based on any number of sites—that is working for us. We take leading indicators to heart,” adds Vi.

Showing Employees They Are Cared About

An unexpected benefit of using leading indicators to improve the culture of safety is that employees feel deeply cared for now that they are so involved and embedded in the safety program.

“They can see we care enough for them to return back home safe, just like they came in,” says Vi.

Vi says as the company looks ahead, this will not only help them retain their talent, but it will help them continue to attract top talent, too. “The type of people we are hiring now is so different, and we want to attract people to be a part of our culture,” she says. Their safety program is a key way to do just that.

Leading Indicators Drive Incremental, Meaningful Cultural Shifts

All in all, leading indicators have given Rudolph Foods’ employees the means and visibility to make incremental changes that impact their improvement, which Vi says is empowering for them. “That’s given us a structure where we know what makes sense to capture and we can make changes and we can know what to adjust to,” says Vi.

“It’s not just ‘we wrote a safety program.’ It’s about people owning and understanding a safety program and seeing the patterns of where there could be a gap, so that we can all improve together.”

See How iReportSource Can Help You Improve Safety with Leading Indicators

With iReportSource, you can easily collect the data you need to identify and then understand your leading indicators. That way, you can know your highest risk areas and take meaningful, immediate action to minimize that risk and to prevent future accidents. Go from “I think” to “I know” with iReportSource. Learn more about managing “everyday safety” with iReportSource today.