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Why Certain Workers Get Injured More – Unlocking the Code

September 6, 2017

iStock-546439574.jpgA few months ago, I was working with a global manufacturing company, at one of their U.S. sites.  During our project, they shared about one particular employee who lost part of his finger while performing a routine task on a machine.  I was surprised when I heard that only a few months later, the same individual lost another finger while doing the exact same task again.  Despite training, coaching, and suffering a significant injury, this particular employee did not change his at-risk behaviors.  Records showed that upon returning to work, he continued to engage in at-risk work practices and kept bending safety policies by removing machine guarding that was in place.  Could the operation have been made safer?  Probably.  But dozens of other employees worked on that machine as well, and none of them appeared to remove the guarding or run the machine in the same risky, rushed manner that he had been warned about before. They had all received plenty of training on how to safely operate the machine.

I hear numerous stories like this, in various industries and operations.  Here’s another one - just last week, a young supervisor at another company shared how he was struggling with a particular operator who kept ignoring basic PPE policies.  When the supervisor went to the union president and started to tell him he was having issues with an employee, he didn’t even have to say who the employee was; immediately the union president himself responded: “I bet you’re talking about Mike.  Yeah, I’ve got to talk with him again.  I’ll totally support you, however you want to handle it.”  He automatically knew exactly who the supervisor was talking about.  How?  Because people are known for their personal tendencies and habits, and safety behavior is no exception.

Welcome to the Internal Side of Safety

We all know the typical approaches to preventing harm – PPE, policies and procedures, safety training, etc.  Those are tried and true, but they only deal with external safety – the factors outside of a person, which vary every day.  But what about the person, and his/her characteristics?  We now have a name for them – SafetyDNA.  These characteristics are the internal side of safety – that which resides in our brain, and which varies from person to person.

No one is immune from injury and there are many situational factors (e.g., management, environmental conditions) that contribute to someone getting hurt or killed on the job.  But individual traits and abilities play a critical role in determining personal risk levels.  Research in Industrial & Organizational Psychology has now unlocked the code of these characteristics, allowing us to understand and measure quantitatively what these traits are, how they put some of us at much greater risk, and how they influence our everyday behavior.

Join me next week as I share the research behind SafetyDNA, and how organizations are using cutting-edge assessment technology to measure it and use it to help prevent workplace injuries and improve safety culture one person at a time.  In this one-hour webinar you will learn the following:   

SafetyDNA: the 4 factors that make up an individual’s internal safety profile and how these are accurately measured in 30 minutes

TaskDNA: by applying the SafetyDNA factors to any job task, employees understand their personal exposure BEFORE beginning the task

How SafetyDNA profiles and TaskDNA visuals work together, creating a simple way for employees to understand how their personal traits can increase or decrease their risk depending on the task they are performing

Sustainability: integration of SafetyDNA and TaskDNA into Job Safety Analyses, Task Safety Graphics, Incident Investigations, Toolbox Talks, and Training serve to build a personal and sustainable safety culture


Esteban Tristan, Ph.D. Esteban Tristan, Ph.D. is the Director of 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.