Differences between active and reactive monitoring

An organisation should have systematic approaches for monitoring its health and safety controls as part of its management system. This is where monitoring comes in. There are two types, active monitoring and reactive monitoring. In this post, we’ll look at these two types and their critical differences.

Active Monitoring

Active monitoring gives organisations feedback on performance before an accident, incident or ill health. It includes monitoring the achievement of specific plans and objectives, the operation of the health and safety management system, and compliance with performance standards. This provides a firm basis for decisions about improvements in risk control and the health and safety management system. Examples:

  • Health and Safety Inspections
  • Health and Safety Sampling
  • Health and Safety Tours

Reactive Monitoring

Reactive monitoring, by definition, is triggered after an event and involves collecting information over time and collating that information to provide management information on performance trends and fluctuations.

Each event allows an organisation to check performance, learn from mistakes, and improve the health and safety management system and risk controls. Examples:

  • Accident and Incident Data
  • Sickness Absence
  • Incident Investigations
  • Complaints
  • Enforcement Actions

Leading and Lagging Indicators

If unchecked, all systems will deteriorate over time. Significant incidents occur when defects across several risk control systems materialise concurrently. Setting leading and lagging indicators for each risk critical control system should reveal failings in these barriers as they arise and before all the essential barriers are defeated.

Leading Indicators

Leading indicators are a form of active monitoring focused on a few critical risk control systems to ensure their continued effectiveness. They involve a routine systematic check that key actions or activities are undertaken as intended. The leading indicator identifies failings in vital aspects of the risk control system discovered during regular inspections of the operation of a critical activity within the risk control system.

Lagging Indicators

Lagging indicators are a form of reactive monitoring requiring the reporting and investigation of specific incidents and events to discover weaknesses in the system. These incidents or events do not have to result in significant damage or injury. Instead, they represent a failure of a critical control system that guards against or limits the consequences of an incident. Lagging indicators show when a desired safety outcome has failed or has not been achieved. They reveal failings in the system discovered following an incident or adverse event.