Safety – the freedom from harm, injury or loss – is one of the most basic human needs, second only to survival in Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Unintentional injury, and the pain, disability and death that are associated with it, is a global health issue. It is estimated that more than 3.7 million people die each year from its effects.

Improving safety is a complex challenge, incorporating elements of science, behavior, culture, policy and public health. Injury prevention is well understood at the incident level, with hazard identification and mitigation at its core. But how do we gain insights into how resources, policies and priorities play a role?

Can safety be quantified?

As an organization with science, research and engineering at its core, UL looked to answer this question. UL sought to use the same approach it takes with understanding the complexities of product and system safety and putting it into a simple framework.

The UL Safety IndexTM is an algorithm-based, data science initiative that allows people to understand the global state of safety by aggregating data in a new way. It takes into consideration indicators, drivers and outcomes related to the safety environment of nearly 190 countries around the world.

“UL wanted to understand how we might contribute to global safety, benchmark current levels of safety, and determine where we can have the most significant positive impact,” said Barb Guthrie, UL’s Chief Public Safety Officer.

UL’s goal is to educate people around the world on many safety issues, including distracted driving, eliminating texting and driving, and making roads safer. The index provides UL with greater insight into the opportunities and challenges around the world and aid in identifying priority areas for investment and partnerships to further improve safety.

The Index is also designed help governments, safety professionals, policymakers, private sector, and non-governmental organizations make informed decisions to create safe living and working environments around the world. It is a mechanism to help countries develop safety programs and mitigate unintentional injuries.

“The UL Safety Index is the beginning of ‘safety as a system.’ Any single intervention to improve safety is necessary, but it is not sufficient to make a long lasting change in outcomes. You need a system of complementary programs that work to achieve long lasting change,” says David Wroth, UL Director, Public Safety.

The challenge according to Wroth is that change can only come when there is a culture shift and new policy is embraced. The hope is that the UL Safety Index will contribute to a larger discourse on public health and safety and ultimately drive solutions. The intent is that the data will be used to identify opportunities for collaboration toward a common goal of improving safety.

For this first iteration, Wroth says that UL has focused on unintentional injury and plans to share this information to gain response and get more countries involved.

“The UL Safety Index received initial support when we presented at Safety 2016, a World Conference in Tampere, Finland. In future versions, UL has plans to define safety in a much broader sense, expanding beyond unintentional injury,” says Wroth. “Our plans are to update the UL Safety Index on a yearly basis, as information is available, to ensure we can continue to improve safety around the world.”

The UL Safety Index plans to bring about a global movement through injury prevention and awareness facilitating collaboration between governments, academics, public health, researchers, UL customers and other private corporations. This research provides a chance for countries around the world to learn a how to implement solutions in an effort to improve safety overall.

Explore the UL Safety IndexTM: Quantifying the Global State of Safety or watch this video.