Is it possible to identify unsafe potential workers in advance? That’s the business proposition offered by some testing firms. These companies create tests designed, in part, to identify workers and applicants in advance who are unable or unwilling to follow workplace safety protocols and procedures.
This is particularly effective in industries where human error is responsible for a large fraction of workplace injuries and deaths – that is, most of them. Furthermore, the testing is particularly important in industries like construction, manufacturing, mining and transportation, where an attitude of carelessness or negligence is more likely to be lethal.
Specifically, employment safety assessments seek to quantify employee attitudes on several axes.
For example, assessments from Australian employee testing firm OneTest measure employee attitudes on the following subjects:
Locus of control. Some employees believe they, as individuals, can make a difference in their environment through rigorous effort and discipline. Others believe that external factors such as fate are determinative. Such individuals are less likely to be diligent in following safety protocols or being proactive to ensure a safe workplace.
Risk aversion. Some employees have more of an urge to thrill-seek than others. Those who have low inhibitions or who are easily bored are more apt to be involved in workplace accidents than those who indicate that they are more cautious or risk averse.
Stress management. Employees who do not handle stress well are likely to become flustered or distracted, leading to potential workplace hazards. Workers with higher stress tolerance are considered to be safer risks than workers with low stress tolerance.
Drug aversion. Workers who use illegal drugs, or who are likely to use controlled substances, often generate low insight into drug issues – which makes them easier to identify using written assessments. There are a number of employee screening tools that seek to identify lax or permissive attitudes towards drug use themselves or tolerating it among coworkers.
Propensity to violence. Those who report that aggressive behavior is justifiable or understandable are more likely to cause workplace violence themselves – or tolerate it among coworkers. Furthermore, those who report a poor ability to control their own emotions and temper are more apt to become problems in the workplace.
Another testing, Sodexo, slices the apple a little differently: They seek to measure test-takers on their conscientiousness, agreeability, customer service and safety orientation – that is, their stated willingness to adhere to safety protocols and regulations.
Of these parameters, Sodexo has found substantial positive correlation between screening and improved safety outcomes in a variety of industries. Employers found that screening out applicants who had failed the assessment resulted in a 1/3 reduction in workers compensation claims, and that the amount of the remaining claims were also reduced by one third.
Sodexo also found out that employers who screened out those who failed their safety assessment also reduced their employee turnover by an average of 17 percent.
The self-reported effectiveness of Sodexo and OneTest are in line with this case study, reported by another assessment firm, Orion System. Orion cites a major U.S. retailer which tested its approach on 26 stores, covering 4,000 employees. Orion reports that the retailer experienced a 31 percent reduction in workers compensation claims, 23 percent reduction in general liability claims over a five-month period, compared with the same period the year before.
The efficacy of written safety assessment tests isn’t limited to screening out potential employees. Diligent executives can also use these assessments to compare facilities around the company. For example, if employees at one location are far more likely to report that they have ignored safety regulations in order to complete a job on time than workers at another location, you may not have an employee issue so much as a leadership issue at that site.
Employee safety screening is not foolproof. Accidents happen, and always will, as long as people are fallible and equipment isn’t perfect. However, in the aggregate, employee safety screening has proven its value in helping reduce workplace accidents.