What is a Safety Performance Indicator and why you should have them

what is a safety performance indicator

Safety Performance Indicators (or SPIs) – What are they? How do you define them? How do they help in the quest to improve safety? We’ll start at the beginning: an SPI is a safety parameter that can be used to measure the level of safety performance achieved. SPIs oftentimes evaluate the frequency or percentage of occurrences of a particular event.

Defining a Safety Performance Indicator

The International Civil Aviation Association (ICAO) defines an SPI as a “data-based safety parameter, used for monitoring and assessing safety performance.” In non-aviation terms, you could compare SPIs to how a doctor monitors your vital signs, such as heart rate, blood pressure, and temperature. While an isolated vital sign may not mean much on its own, analyzing multiple vital signs together can paint a picture of your overall health. It’s the same with Safety Performance Indicators.

The more you’re involved with safety – and the Safety Management Systems in your operation – the more SPIs can be meaningful to you. With SPIs, organizations can nurture a performance-based safety management.

The value of a Safety Performance Indicator

SPIs help make a Safety Manager’s job easier. Instead of making abstract interpretations about how safety is progressing in your organization, you can use concrete quantitative measures to make informed decisions.

SPIs make it easy to evaluate progress. If you consistently track and monitor the same elements, it will be simple to identify trends over time – especially when using a digital platform to automate this process. You can quickly see whether the changes you have made, have had the desired effect.

Having statistics readily available helps you keep tabs on performance and potential warning signs, which in turn will help you make decisions faster and more effectively.

How to determine a Safety Performance Indicator

There are two types of SPIs:

  • Low-consequence indicators: These include incidents, deviations, or other hazardous instances, and are usually referred to as proactive or predictive indicators.
  • High-consequence indicators: These include serious incidents or accidents, and are referred to as reactive indicators.

You can base SPIs on the risks you’ve identified in your Safety Risk Profile. Defeatists might complain that SPIs are too passive, since you have to wait for a report to be submitted, or an incident to occur, before being able to track it. However, it’s up to you to select more active indicators, such as the number of safety meetings held, or internal training events conducted.

You can use your existing SMS data to help select your SPIs. If you’ve been noticing recurring events with specific airports, regions, or vendors, turn these into an SPI to focus attention on what could potentially become a bigger issue. You can also set separate SPIs for each aircraft in your fleet. Even if they don’t fly the same types of missions, you could compare extended duty days, common maintenance discrepancies, and safety reports.

Finally, gather data over a period of time to analyze changes. Once you’ve established typical values, the Safety Manager should be able to identify both positive and negative trends. Set target and alert SPI values together with Department Management or Colleagues to monitor and improve safety performance.

Examples of Safety Performance Indicators

Not sure what to track as an SPI? Here are some examples to get you started:

Examples of Safety Performance indicators

Have any questions? Contact our experts.

In 2018, we released a new Metrics/SPI Module for our Safety Management System software, ARC, so you can set and track your SPIs within the platform and on the app. Discover how ARC can help you with safety in your organization.