Lost time injury, LTI, is one of many terms used for tracking workplace safety. Understanding these terms, documenting the appropriate incidents, and calculating your company’s safety rating are musts for safety managers.

These metrics provide you with a way to measure the success of your safety program and to see how you stack up against other companies in your industry. Tracking and reporting certain types of injuries is often required by law.

What Is a Lost Time Injury?

A general lost time injury definition is: a work-related incident that results in a worker being unable to return to work.

Safe Work Australia states, “A lost-time injury is something that results in a fatality, permanent disability or time lost from work. It could be as little as one day or shift.”

Other similar terms include “lost time incident,” “lost time case,” and “lost time accident.”

What’s in a Definition?

Definitions are critical when they carry legal or other real-world consequences. In Australia, LTIs are the primary indicators used to track company safety.

In the United States, a similar metric, designated by OSHA, is used: DART. This stands for Days Away, Restricted, or Transferred. As the term implies, this refers to any injury or illness that results in someone being unable to work a full shift, being restricted from their normal work duties, or needing to be transferred.

Another important safety metric used in the United States is recordable incidents. One of several types of incidents that OSHA identifies as recordable is an injury or illness that results in loss of consciousness, days away from work, restricted work, or transfer to another job.

Safety Rates: What They Are, How to Calculate Them

Regardless of which definition you’re required to follow, qualifying occurrences are used to determine a company’s injury incident or injury frequency rate. In the United States, the most common of these is the total recordable incident rate (TRIR). The DART incident rate is also important.

When it comes to LTIs, instead of looking to a lost time injury rate, it’s common to calculate a lost time injury frequency rate (LTIFR). Again, this is what’s most commonly used in Australia.

The difference in these rates, as stated by Safety Risk, is that “a frequency rate is an expression of how many events happened over a given period of time by a standardised number of hours worked. An incidence rate is the number of events that happened over a given period of time by a standardised number of employees.”

So say, for instance, you want to make a lost time injury rate calculation and determine the number of incidents you’ve experienced per 1,000 workers in the last quarter (1,000 is the standardizing number here; when making comparisons, everyone must use the same standardizing parameters to make the comparisons meaningful).

Imagine your company has 5,423 workers and has sustained four LTIs over the time period you’re considering—here, we’ll choose a three-month period. Multiple the LTIs by 1,000, and divide by your number of employees: 4 times 1,000 = 4,000, divided by 5,423, for a rate of .74.

To calculate a LTIFR, replace “number of employees” with “hours worked”. The standardizing number of hours Safe Work Australia uses is 1 million, which is common.

Multiple the LTIs, four, by the standardizing number, 1 million, and divide by the number of hours worked. In this case, we’ll say every employee worked 64 eight-hour days in the three months for a total of 512 hours per employee. This would equal 2,776,576 total hours worked by all employees over that time. Your LTIFR is 4,000,000 divided by 2,776,576, or 1.44.

Why Does Your Rate Number Matter?

When any safety rate number is high, it signals a poor safety environment, which can have huge repercussions. Poor safety indicators may result in increased insurance premiums. Quality workers may look elsewhere for employment, and investors or buyers may take their business to a company with a better safety record. A high rate can create bad PR with the public and lead to other companies not wanting to do business with you. A bad safety reputation can make your company a pariah.

What’s a high number when it comes to a TRIR, DART rate, or LTIFR? Companies are generally compared to others in their industry using an average such as a lost time injury frequency rate industry average. So “high” or “low” is relative. It wouldn’t be fair, obviously, to compare the safety rate of a law firm to that of a mining or logging company.

That said, the aim should always be to keep your rate as low as possible. Paying attention to safety details helps.

Always remember that injuries are a lose-lose-lose situation. If you’re in a dangerous industry, your workers’ compensation premiums are already relatively high, and upticks in your loss-run reports will make that cost go up even more.

You won’t get any relief from the healthcare industry because your industry is more dangerous either. No hospital gives discounts on a laceration sustained by a lumberjack chopping down trees while charging full price for one sustained by a paralegal when opening a box of office supplies with a rusty box cutter. And even if healthcare costs aren’t an issue in your country, insurance rates and premiums will certainly be affected by the number of your reportable incidents.

Preventing Injuries Is What Matters

It’s important to keep your safety paperwork in order and follow the law about reporting incidents. For these purposes, you need to know, for instance, the answer to a question like, “What is a lost time injury?”

But don’t get so hung up on the details of definitions and safety rates that you lose sight of what’s important: worker well-being.

Injuries hurt the injured party, coworkers, and your company. When someone suffers a lost time injury, by definition work is interrupted. Other costs, both direct and indirect, may include:

  • Decreased productivity
  • Lowered employee morale
  • Paid time off
  • Workplace stress
  • Hospital and rehabilitation bills
  • A change in insurance rates or premiums
  • Legal fees
  • Decreased work quality
  • Hiring a temporary employee or replacing the injured party

Your first priority is focusing on effective workplace injury prevention strategies. The most common incidents that lead to lost time are strains, so this is an area to address when considering LTI safety. This short (and funny) video shows how to move properly to prevent common strains in the workplace:

By developing and implementing a comprehensive safety program, your workers will be healthier and happier, your business will thrive, and you can remove lost time injury incidents, and all of the downsides that come with them, from your list of concerns.