Use Personality Traits to Improve Job Safety

492302171A series of reports released by Talent Click, a Vancouver, British Columbia employee assessment and safety management training company, explore the relationship between common employee personality types and risk of incidents in industrial work environments. The reports’ findings distinguish between individual and crew incidents, and provide a reliable figure for the average number of incidents and cost to companies that could be reduced through more careful screening of employee selections during hiring, and through the use of coaching to improve on-the-job safety records.

Prepared by the late Dr. Rick Iverson and Rand Gottschalk (MA, industrial psychology), the report was based on sets of data from one company — employee personality assessment results and existing safety incidents. The data accumulated are based on more than 200 incidents and several hundred employees at one company and show statistically significant correlations between several common personality traits that many of us can identify with — information that can be acted upon by nearly any company in industrial fields.

Iverson and Gottschalk found that personality traits play a large role in on-the-job safety. Among front-line industrial workers who are employed in the field (those whose day-to-day job involves the actual building, engineering, and working on industrial projects) four personality types were shown to be more likely to have accidents on the job, causing injury to themselves or others, as well as causing property damage to equipment or premises.

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Predictably, the personality types most at risk for harm to themselves and others included those who polled strongly as Thrill Seekers (those with a tendency to seek out excitement tend to put their excitement before consideration of coworkers and equipment, a recipe for disaster at industrial job sites); Impulsives (those who take risks and act without fully considering consequences – we’ve all been under pressure to make quick decisions on less than complete information at various times); Reactives (those who have a negative emotional reaction to stress – at oil, logging, energy, and commercial construction sites, there’s likely to be plenty of stress); and Resistants (those who disregard rules – the “mavericks” of the crew).

Foremen and Field Supervisors are also responsible for their crew, and those with high scores in the Resistant, Reactive and Impulsive categories were more likely to cause dangerous situations for their crew members. Foremen or Field Superintendents scoring in the high risk range of Resistant had an average incident rate 2.3 times higher than that those who scored in the low and average risk ranges.

Key Takeaways
Based on the research, the following applications could be utilized:

  • Screening employee hires for “Impulsive” personalities could result in 10 fewer personal injuries.
  • Screening Foremen and Supervisors for “Resistant” traits could result in 19 fewer crew injuries.
  • 25-50 percent reduction in annual personal injury rate.
  • $76,000 average savings for 100 hires.

Research Methodology
As previously noted, the study is primarily comprised of two sets of data based on one company. One is comprised of employee personality assessment results, called the Safety Quotient, which was performed on more than 645 company employees. The other data set were existing safety incident data provided by the company in the study. The study was based upon the following data provided by the company:

  • Personality risk assessment collected on 645 employees.
  • 71 personal incidents — a person involved in an incident him/herself (1st person reports)
  • 197 crew incidents — a foreman or field superintendent had a member of his/her crew involved in an incident (3rd person reports)

Employees who underwent the Safety Quotient were measured on five safety-related personality characteristics. The incident types reviewed for the research included the following:

  • First aid
  • Clinic visits
  • Recordable injuries
  • Near misses
  • Property damage
  • Equipment damage

Screening out risky employees and screening in safe ones provides a safer workplace for everyone and provides measurable cost savings.


MORE: Safety First: Fatal temp injuries draw OSHA’s attention


Ryne Landers

Ryne Landers
Ryne Landers works with clients across a variety of industries. Find him on LinkedIn.

Ryne Landers

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