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A Research-Based Strategy to Reduce Safety Incidents in the Workplace

April 4, 2018

Each year, thousands are killed while working on the job and even more are injured or have a close call that could result in injury. An appendage to those tragic events is the fact that organizations lose thousands and even millions of dollars due to these safety incidents. OSHA has stated:

“Injuries and illnesses increase workers' compensation and retraining costs, absenteeism, and faulty product. They also decrease productivity, morale, and profits.”

So, what can companies do to decrease safety incidents? OSHA says that an effective safety management system is a key to the solution for this problem. How can you identify the solutions that make a meaningful difference?

Safety assessments and safety development programs created by industrial-organizational psychologists have shown promising results. Industrial-organizational psychologists study human behavior in the workplace. One facet of this field of study is safety in the workplace and the factors that make the difference between a safe work day and an incident. Research on workplace safety takes a deeper exploration into the safety orientation and safety risks of an employee, and has resulted in some pretty exciting findings.

A group of I/O psychologists at Select International developed an online assessment and administered it to employees working in a manufacturing role. Results from the assessment were then used in a safety program to educate individuals on their strengths and weaknesses of workplace safety. Since safety orientation and safety risks can vary greatly from on employee to the next, this program allowed for specific feedback, suggestions, and insight that was different for each individual. After all, when something is more personal to us, we tend to pay more attention to it. 

Do Safety Assessment and Training Work?

In this study, we recorded the number of safety incidents that occurred before and after the implementation of the safety assessment. These safety incidents ranged from a simple cut on a finger to a more severe injury. Data was collected between 2012 and 2016, which provided a five-year window to examine the trend in safety incidents. The results, seen below, show a clear and significant drop in safety incidents after the program was implemented. 

5-Year Trend of Safety Incidents

What Are the Benefits of Using Safety Assessments and Training?

The number of safety incidents, as well as the severity of each incident, can vary depending upon industry, location, and other factors. However, this study shows strong evidence that once individuals understand and personalize their own safety strengths and blind spots, safety incidents decrease. This means more people will be safer in the workplace. In addition to taking meaningful steps toward accomplishing a zero-harm goal, these positive results mean that organizations can save money by implementing a strategic safety solution aimed at making safety personal.

Related: 3 Ways to Make Your Safety Moments More Personal

The average total (direct and indirect) cost of one single safety incident could cost around $28,000. Therefore, reducing safety incidents from 11 incidents to four incidents would be an estimated savings of $196,000. This is assuming that none of those safety incidents were recordable safety incidents requiring medical treatment beyond first aid or one that causes death, days away from work, restricted work, transfer to another job, or loss of consciousness. The estimated total cost for only one recordable injury could be around $142,000 or more.

The journey towards meaningful safety improvement can (and must) be strengthened by building a strong and consistent safety culture. Safety assessments and training are readily available and offer a great solution to either build a development program from the ground-up or to boost current safety initiatives at your organization. This study was only one example of how combining an assessment with a training can produce a decreasing trend in safety incidents. Accurate safety profiles combined with a personal approach were the perfect recipe for meaningful improvements. There are many reasons to invest in a reputable safety program, as results have a strong impact on both your workforce and safety culture as well as costs to your organization.

EHS Training with Psychometric Assessment

Trevor McGlochlin Trevor McGlochlin is a Research Consultant at PSI. He leads the Financial and Automotive verticals within R&D. He earned a Master of Science degree in Industrial and Organizational Psychology from Florida Institute of Technology. His areas of expertise include selection, employee turnover, organizational development, applied research, and statistical analyses. His analysis work is centered around validation, adverse impact, turnover analyses, assessment scoring, and other data analysis.