So let’s say you are a Safety or HSE Manager, and your company is trying to improve safety and reduce current injury rates. What do you do? What comes to mind first? Maybe you implement state-of-the art safety training and make sure everyone goes through it. Or perhaps, you inspect every single piece of equipment in your facility and make sure that you could pass an OSHA inspection with flying colors tomorrow. Maybe you do both. The truth is there are many things you could do to make sure all your employees go home safely to their families every day. But chances are, you probably didn’t think about looking at your hiring process.
In fact, recruitment and selection are rarely on people’s radars as a way to improve safety. And that’s a shame, because it can make a big difference. There is now sound, hard evidence out there that a hiring process that screens applicants for safety can greatly reduce your injury rates, keep people safer and…it can save your company a TON of money in the long run. This brief story is just one real example of how any organization can use recruitment and selection to actually reduce injuries.
We work with a lot of Fortune 2000 organizations, especially in the manufacturing sector. One of these organizations, which is a global manufacturer of electric equipment, started working with us back in 2006 and implemented our safety-based selection process in order to screen and hire production employees. This hiring system had a series of hurdles, including a validated online assessment battery, a job fit questionnaire and custom-designed production exercises that simulated the main physical aspects of the job. All three of these hiring steps had components that measured safety orientation and risk-taking.
In order to see how well this process was working in terms of reducing work-related injuries, we did a longitudinal study comparing incident and injury rates pre- versus post-system implementation. In other words, we looked at safety incidents and recordable injury rates BEFORE (2004-05) our system was put into place, and compared it to the same metrics AFTER (2007-08) our system was put in place. We controlled for length of service by including incident and injury data for only the first year of employment for each individual. All employees in the 2004-05 sample were hired through a pre-existing process, whereas all employees in the 2007-08 sample were hired through the new system we had put into place. In terms of data, we looked at two variables: 1) safety incidents (first aids and near misses) and 2) OSHA recordable injuries.
So what did we find? Prior to the new hiring system, safety incident rates were 38%. After the new system was put into place, rates were down to 24%–a 37% reduction in safety incidents. But what about the OSHA recordables? Even better. Previously, the organization had an OSHA recordable rate of 17%. Post-implementation, it was only 9% - that’s nearly a 50% reduction in recordable injury rate in less than 4 years! Just to put that into perspective, the very best performing state injury and illness prevention programs in the U.S. achieve slightly over 60% reduction, and many produce less than 10%.
Now, for the million dollar question – what does this have to do with them saving over $2 million? Let’s take a look at that now.
Consider the following findings from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS):
- Over half of all recordable injuries are DART cases (involving days away from work, restricted time or job transfers)
- The average worker’s compensation claim is about $40,000
- This organization had 107 fewer OSHA recordables in the two-year period after the new hiring system was put in place
- We can assume that at about 54 (50%) of those 107 recordables that were prevented would have been DART cases, meaning each would have cost the company approximately $40,000 on average
Therefore, we can do the math and say that 54 DART cases X $40,000 = $2.16 million saved.
These findings show that a validated hiring process that screens applicants up front for safety can dramatically reduce injury and incident rates, and that these reductions can really add up to enormous cost savings for any organization. Now those are some significant, tangible cost savings that anyone can feel good about. So maybe next time you think about how you can tackle your organization’s safety concerns, recruitment and selection should be on the top of your list.