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A Critical Key to Creating a Safer Workforce

January 21, 2015

124322561I heard an absolute shocker last week. Our main contact at a global company in the freight and rail industry told me that they had to fire one of their site safety managers recently. I figured this was due to the individual perhaps not meeting their goals in terms of improving safety, or maybe it was just a personality conflict or something of that nature. Much to my surprise, he told me they had to fire him when they found out that he was actually “…showing employees how to get around the safety policies, like how to bypass machine guarding and lock-out/tag-out, and stuff like that.” Let that sink in for a minute.

YES. This was the site safety manager himself, and he was the one showing people how to break the safety rules. Are you kidding me??? I knew at that moment that I had now heard it all! We sometimes hear of the occasional supervisor who undermines safety, but I have to admit this was the first time I heard of the “safety guy” being the culprit.

Perhaps you’ve had this happen in your company or have heard of it happening somewhere (I hope not), but regardless, it’s an absolute shame and it is very much preventable. This unfortunate event simply reminds us that it is absolutely critical to screen your job candidates for safety propensity. As I have written in previous blogs, it is amazing how many corporations we talk to every year who vehemently believe that safety is their absolute #1 value, yet…they do not screen job candidates at all for safety during the hiring or promotional process. There are validated, proven assessment tools and interview questions that can reliably measure SafetyDNA, risk propensity, and safety leadership skills, yet many companies are unaware or simply unwilling to invest in these tools.

Hiring an individual who is a high safety risk is a costly mistake at any level, especially in any sort of leadership level and in high-hazard work environments. Our research shows that leaders who score low on safety leadership traits are 3.5 times more likely to have injuries occur on the crews they supervise. We have also found that individual contributors with low SafetyDNA assessment scores are 4 times more likely to be injured on the job and up to 10 times more likely to be involved in a recordable injury. By administering an assessment that takes 30 minutes or less to complete, high-risk candidates can be identified early in the process and screened out before they put your employees at risk. When you spend thousands of dollars every year to create a safe work environment through training, audits, certifications and other processes – why would you hire someone without making sure they will fit into your safety culture? This can be a critical part of your safety management strategy that is often ignored.

You and your company’s employees have worked too hard on safety to let one bad hire ruin it. So if you have not done so already, take a look at your employer’s current hiring process and make sure that you’re not letting just anybody in through the door when it comes to safety. Do some research and identify some psychometric assessments that measure safety, are validated and are legally defensible. You will want to make sure that they measure the right competencies, traits and skills depending on the job level and description. And you will want to look at the evidence behind the assessment to make sure it actually predicts safety outcomes, such as incidents, injuries or ratings of safety performance.

Using these types of validated assessments for both external and internal selection will go a long way in reducing your organization’s risk, and will ensure that your new hires will truly be a good fit for your safety culture. Oh…and it’ll also help you hire a safety manager that will actually show people how to follow the rules instead of breaking them!


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Esteban Tristan, Ph.D. Esteban Tristan, Ph.D. is the Director of Corporate Safety Solutions at PSI. He manages the development and implementation of all safety solutions and services, which address some of the critical challenges faced by organizations today in workplace safety.