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Reducing Serious Injuries and Fatalities: A Missing Piece

January 24, 2018

reducing serious injuries and fatalitiesSafety professionals are notorious for getting hit with the gotcha questions that, if not answered correctly, make us look stupid. On the surface these questions seem simple to answer, but there’s always a catch. Here’s one I recently heard. Are today’s new mid-size sedans safe to drive? For the sake of this argument, let’s consider the 2018 Toyota Camry. What do you say – is it a safe vehicle? Well, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety recently gave this car their Top Safety Pick Award. If you're like most astute safety professionals, your answer will sound like this: “Yes, but…it depends on who is driving the Camry!” You quickly recognize that, while the vehicle is reasonably safe, the person behind the wheel ultimately decides how the car is driven

Knowing that certain drivers are statistically safer than others while driving the same Camry, a safety professional might be curious as to what accounts for this variance in safety outcomes. Insurance companies have known of this variance for almost a century and use it daily: this is why they adjust individual rates with complex formulas to determine your personal risk level and can attach a dollar figure to it. These are not guesses either, they are done by actuaries using massive data sets.

Even off the road, this personalized variance in safety performance matters – and the experts recognize it. I have friends who specialize in Safety by Design consulting, which consists of intelligently designing a work environment to reduce or eliminate dangerous exposures. They’re engineers doing amazing work to improve workplace safety. Yet, they are not immune to getting gotcha questions ether. Here is a common one: “Are your workplace designs safe to work in?” Their response? “Of course, but…it ultimately does depend on who works there.”

Anyone involved in workplace safety design knows that the human variable is a key factor in the safety outcomes equation. For that reason, I felt an obligation to use my company’s expertise in psychometric testing to improve workplace safety — one person at a time. So here is a little history...starting in 2007, we tasked our R&D Team of Industrial Organizational Psychologists to do the following:

  • 2007 – Create & Validate SafetyDNA® Models: Identifying and validating the traits (SafetyDNA) responsible for safety outcomes, we worked with clients to run studies and correlated test results with safety performance. Fortunately, we had the large client datasets needed to conduct numerous validation studies, which was the genesis of the SafetyDNA Assessment.

  • 2009 – SafetyDNA Selection Tools: Using our findings, we added this content to positions where safety is of high importance such as manufacturing jobs, engineering companies, construction, drivers, and many more.

  • 2012 – Development Workshops: SafetyDNA Workshops were designed to help the entire workforce reduce incidents. However, most companies limit classroom training and coaching to leaders, and we train many of them. So, we needed an alternative online solution for hourly employees. Think: Faster, cheaper, simpler.

  • 2017 – SafetyDNA Online Program: Our R&D Team finished the online safety testing, training, and sustainability solution, bringing this technology to the masses. Success! Awarded 2017 OH&S Best New Product of the Year for Online Safety Training!

As you can imagine, we learned much over the last decade about the internal side of safety and how to make it actionable for all employees. Some of our solutions were instant hits, resulting in impressive client results, while others did not perform as we hoped, and forced us back to the drawing board.

As experts in developing highly-predictive psychometric tests, we developed hundreds of assessments and evaluated millions of individuals. Yet, in full honesty, back in 2007 many of us doubted that predicting safety incidents was scientifically possible. It is one thing to speculate – another to prove it with empirical data. Let me share a few interesting results from a global aluminum company.

The company identified its safety challenges around one area: employee engagement. The company had its own advanced safety training program that all employees were required to complete as part of the onboarding process. Workers clearly knew what was expected, which was to comply with the myriad of safety rules and procedures. Unfortunately, this did not increase employee engagement.

So, the company chose to take a different approach: a personal one, one that would develop over 200 leaders’ ability to lead for safety and engage employees. Seven out of its eight plant sites completed the SafetyDNA Program. The 8th decided to continue focusing on their current safety program.

Six months later, something had changed. The seven sites that completed the program had no recordable injuries, while the 8th site had continued to have recordables. The company witnessed leaders engaged in their employee's personal safety. Learning more about themselves, the leaders were surprised to discover a side of safety that took them into a realm of actually caring for each other. They expressed a level of commitment in daily safety conversations that created a turning point in their safety cultures.

The result? 2.1 million worker-hours without a recordable injury and still going. That is over two years. Meanwhile, what happened to the 8th site that did not got through the program? Their recordables remained the same. We have seen similar results with other client organizations. By getting everyone’s attention though a personal experience, SafetyDNA serves as a catalyst to drive engagement in safety, which is key for reducing serious injuries and fatalities.

We’re committed to making safety personal, so we’re proud of all that’s been accomplished since 2007.  But we never stop; we’re continually developing and exploring new technologies and techniques to improve personal safety.  If your organization is interested in being part of these innovative approaches, contact us to learn more.

Until next week…


Chris Klinvex Chris Klinvex , was the EVP and Co-Founder of Select International, acquired by PSI. He led the Safety Solutions Group focused on innovative research based safety solutions that are changing how organization approach workplace safety. His team’s most recent award for the new SafetyDNA® Assessment and Development program won the prestigious 2017 Best Online Safety training award from Occupational Health and Safety.