Safety – Accident frequency rate

Accident frequency rate AFR

Accident frequency rate: What you need to know about your AFR

Definition of accident frequency rate

Accident frequency rate is one of the standard safety measures which companies use to identify and analyse the number of occupational accidents which take place in the workplace. Any accident which is reported on site or in the workplace will become a part of the resulting AFR number.

The reason for calculating an accident frequency rate is to track the number of accidents which occur from project to project or year to year - or to compare safety performance across other companies and industries similar to your own.

Accident frequency rate is one of the most common safety metrics (along with these other safety KPIs) when measuring a companies performance and progress towards "zero harm".

Zero harm seeks to prevent all accidents and incidents, and one of the best ways to measure and prove zero harm is to get to an AFR of 0.

Accident frequency rate AFR

Accident frequency rate by industry

While all companies and projects seek to achieve zero harm and an accident frequency rate of 0, some industries are inherently more dangerous than others and will find it harder to drive their AFR towards 0.

You can find some data on the accident frequency rate by industry below, with these averages stemming from incident rates in the years 2013/2014.

As you can see, the typically 'dangerous' industries like construction, manufacturing and agriculture are at the higher end of the spectrum (with more accidents), while information, communication and professional service industries have very low accident rates.

Luckily, construction and heavy industrial companies are held to a slightly different standard to these traditionally safer industries - at least up until recently.

Heavy industries have seen some dramatic improvements in recent years as safety has become more emphasised and accepted by companies and workers alike, and hopefully this trend continues.

It's hard to get data on the accident frequency rate by industry, but you can see and analyse the incident frequency rates below - which are almost interchangeable with accidents. Accidents don't always result in reportable incidents, but the measures are closely aligned.


Industry Incident rate (per 100 employees)
Agriculture, forestry and fishing 2.7
Mining 1.4
Manufacturing 2.8
Electricity, gas, water and waste services 1.1
Construction 2.6
Wholesale trade 1.9
Retail trade 0.9
Accomodation and food services 1.1
Transport, postal and warehousing 2.4
Information media and telecommunications 0.5
Financial and insurance services 0.2
Rental, hiring and real estate services 0.8
Professional, scientific and technical services 0.4
Administrative and support services 0.7
Public administration and safety 1.2
Education and training 1.3
Arts and recreation services 1.9
Other services 1.1
All industries 1.5

Accident frequency rate in construction

Accident frequency rate is a measure which is often most closely aligned to construction companies. Construction companies have been working really hard in recent years to reduce the number of accidents taking place on their sites.

So what drives the accident frequency rate on construction sites above other industries?

The data suggests that a few types of construction accidents are outliers in terms of the rates at which they occur vs. other industries.

Somewhat surprisingly, slips trips and falls occupied a larger share of the non-fatal injuries and accidents occurring in other industries vs. construction. In construction, where there are countless slip hazards and issues, these types of accidents accounted for 24% of accidents, where as they accounted for 29% in other industries.

The major difference in the type of accidents which occur on construction sites is the share of falls from height accidents. Working at height safety has been a major focus for the industry for many years, and it clearly still requires plenty of work. Falls from heights also account for 48% of fatal injuries on work sites, so these are anything but minor accidents.

The construction industry also has plenty of other concerns in the health and safety space, with 25% of work-related health cases being associated with stress, depression or anxiety.

So outside of the obvious 'accidents' and high accident rate in construction, there is plenty of progress to be made.

Levers for improving (lowering) your accident frequency rate

There are a couple of major levers which companies (and especially construction and heavy industrial companies) can use to improve and lower their accident frequency rate.

The first one is to focus on improving those safety leading indicator metrics.

Unlike accident frequency rate, which is a lagging indicator (one which illustrates past performance), leading indicators are the indicators which indicate future performance.

As an example, some of these leading indicators include:

  • Risk assessments
  • Toolbox talks
  • Training sessions

When these indicators are good e.g when workers are performing their risk assessments and when teams are having good toolbox talks, then a company should be able to assume that accidents and incidents will be lower.

Some of the benefit here is practical in that assessing risk more closely and becoming more aware of safety should result in fewer avoidable accidents, while good safety participation also illustrates a culture where people are comfortable flagging safety issues and hazards before they turn into accidents and incidents.

A good looking leading indicator safety dashboard like the example below can show short and long term trends for companies, and help them to surface issues much more quickly than when relying solely on long term and more infrequent measure like AFR.

Lowering your accident frequency rate

Take control of your AFR using this safety management system.

The other major safety lever which companies have at their disposal is related to safety participation, but it is more centred on encouraging and enabling safety participation through the direct processes behind safety.

Safety is one of those functions that can take second-fiddle to production and contractual issues, because workers are measured (and paid) based on performance in these areas.

So when you or your safety team make it hard for workers to conduct risk assessments and file hazard reports, it makes it easy for workers to ignore or 'forget' to do it.

Companies and safety teams need to reduce the friction associated with performing safety activities and documentation as this has a huge impact on the amount of accidents which can be prevented, and the amount of data which teams have to use to make improvements to site and workplace safety.

From a process perspective, one of the best ways that construction and other companies lower the friction associated with safety jobs and documentation is by using technology.

Today, instead of a worker trying to find a toolbox talk template to simply conduct and document the talk, they can simply open their phone or tablet, capture the data, and it is automatically synced to the cloud where it is stored and can be actioned.


Toolbox talk app

Companies can streamline all of their activity using these softwares and apps to make it drastically easier for people to perform their duties and document what's happening from a safety perspective.

Accident frequency rates have been getting lower in most industries for a number of years, but there is still plenty of low hanging fruit.

Many of the accidents occurring in construction and other industries are preventable, some through more conscious work and less negligence, and some through smarter processes and procedures.

Not every company will reach zero harm, but lower accident frequency rates are good for everyone. Companies have healthier and happier employees, people get to go home at the end of the day, and projects get delivered on time and on budget.


See how you can easily streamline your systems and processes with Sitemate today

About Lance Hodgson

Lance is VP of Marketing at Sitemate. His aim is to bring awareness to a brighter future for the Built World where industrial workers and companies work smarter.

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