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Will the Safe Employees Please Stand Up?

November 29, 2017

safe employees

Safeguarding the health and welfare of employees is a critical reason for maintaining a safe and productive work environment. Accident prevention is also important for organizations financially, as incidents are costly in terms of insurance, equipment, and goods. While there are many factors that contribute to these events, research tells us that some individuals are more likely to act unsafely at work than others. It may be no surprise that the individuals who naturally behave unsafely are also the ones who are responsible for most work-related safety incidents. For instance, in the trucking industry, 20% of drivers account for almost 80% of all driving accidents. This 80/20 rule is true across many industries for accidents and injuries.

Related: The 80/20 Rule in Safety - A Few People, A Lot of Incidents

So, this begs the question, how can we identify those individuals who are more likely to behave unsafely? Following are just some of the traits, based on the S.A.F.E. Model, that have been identified over years of safety research to predict occupational incidents and injuries:
  • Stays in Control: Emotional control when under significant stress or deadlines.

  • Aware of Surroundings: Attention to details, awareness of the most immediate hazards.

  • Follows Rules: Attitude toward rule compliance.

  • Exhibits Caution: Comfort level with risk, impulsivity, and thrill seeking.

Related: Here are three tips for staying in control of your safety.

While some of these traits may sound familiar to you, it is important to understand that they can be developed to benefit your workforce. An organization can reduce the injury rates resulting from these traits in two ways.

First, using pre-employment testing can assess for traits related to accident-likelihood and can screen out high-risk applicants. Generally, the goal here would be to identify unsafe candidates using a combination of factors to eliminate that small percentage of individuals who could be responsible for a large percentage of accidents. 

Second, identifying current employees who are higher risk helps determine where to focus their development, including safety training and targeted personal coaching. This makes current employees aware of their vulnerabilities and provides them with tools to create personal safety strategies that lessen their exposures to risk at work. Keeping these traits and solutions in mind, your organization will succeed at making well-informed decisions to improve workplace safety. A work team educated and focused on their internal safety traits will have less exposures and less safety incidents. This is the future of personal workplace safety, making safety personal – because it is!


Kristin Delgado Kristin Delgado is a Senior Research Consultant at PSI. Her areas of expertise include analyzing data, designing and evaluating selection systems in terms of system utility, validity, fairness, and efficiency, and item response methodology. Kristin is a member of the Society for Industrial Organizational Psychology and maintains an active role in conducting applied research.