Abstract Halfway through the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) period, there has been little research on the criteria for monitoring safely managed sanitation under SDG target 6.2. For reporting against SDGs, global indicators are necessarily limited and exclude many safety aspects from a public and environmental health perspective. Primary survey data from 31,784 households in seven countries in Asia and Africa were analysed, comparing estimates of safely managed on-site sanitation based on global indicators with five complementary indicators of safety: animal access to excreta, flooding and overflow, groundwater contamination, emptying frequency, and the safety of emptying. Application of additional criteria reduced the population with safely managed sanitation by 0.4-38% for specific indicators, with the largest impact due to the risk of groundwater contamination, animal access, and containments overdue for emptying. Combining these indicators across the service chain, excluding transport and treatment, found three-quarters of on-site systems currently assessed as safely managed with global indicators were considered unsafe based on complementary indicators. A more comprehensive assessment of safety of on-site sanitation can be achieved through these indicators, which could be integrated into national monitoring systems and used to inform sanitation investments that address local health related risks.