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Creating safe workplace begins at hiring stage

Originally posted September 28, 2013 by Derek Sankey on http://www.leaderpost.com

A Calgary university professor is offering up a new solution to cutting down on workplace safety incidents: personality profiling.

By putting prospective and existing employees through a rigorous, 30-minute survey and risk assessment, Derek Chapman claims he can develop an accurate personality profile that will measure their overall safety risk to the organization.

“You might have a great training program and good policies and procedures, but if you hire people who come into your company who are likely to ignore that training and those procedures, you still end up with accidents,” says Chapman, an associate professor of industrial and organizational psychology at the University of Calgary.

He also runs a company called CounterpartMatch. com, which sells this technology – it uses a series of complex algorithms to compile the survey results to create an overall safety risk profile – and has had some success getting it into the hands of several large companies.

“It’s about trying to be accurate in your prediction and taking everything into account,” says Chapman.

What he also found is that there is a direct link between the “fit” of a person to the company’s culture and values and predicting safety outcomes.

“When people are unhappy in the company and have low job satisfaction, they’re more likely to cut corners or be reckless or be defiant,” Chapman says. “They’re more likely to buy into the organization’s policies when they feel like they’re more a part of the company.”

He sees great potential for the personality risk assessment tool in industries where safety is a big concern, including the oil and gas and mining sectors.

Chapman believes a truly safe work environment uses a combination of strategies, policies and tools.

“To be a safe organization, you need a multipronged approach,” he says. “It’s not enough just to have good training (or) good leadership.”

Diana Rude, president and owner of On-Track Safety Solutions Ltd., sees potential in the concept. “I think it’s a useful tool,” she says, adding she has some reservations about how effective it might be in practice.

“The only thing is how honest (employees) are going to be filling out a 30-minute survey,” Rude says. “If it’s something that could impact their job position by the way they answer something, of course they’re going to be a little bit toward the safer side when filling it out.”

Chapman points to the thousands of people killed on the job site each year across North America – and the more than one million injured – as ample reason for companies to be more proactive in taking a closer look at how personality impacts safety.

“Many of those (accidents) are avoidable,” he says.

His survey examines four key areas, starting with “panic propensity.” Chapman says: “Many times when things go wrong, some people are calm and deal with it while other people panic and make it worse.”

Next is recklessness. “People who are impatient are likely to cut corners (and) take risks,” he says.

Third is “safety defiance.” He adds: “Some people just have low respect for authority and rules,” which he says often spreads to the rest of the workforce, which leads to complacency about safety.

The final element is how “distractible” an employee is. These workers tend to pay less attention to detail and aren’t as focused.

Rude says employers have generally become more aware of safety issues in recent years.

“(Employers) are at least being a little bit more proactive in knowing they need to get these systems in place in order to get the work,” she says. “Companies are taking it more seriously.”

After an incident occurs, they also appear to be getting much better at changing or modifying their safe-work practices and procedures, she adds.

© Copyright (c) The Regina Leader-Post