How psychometrics might improve health and safety

by Rose Sneyd08 Apr 2013

Organisations should embrace the use of psychometric assessment to improve their health and safety cultures, according to practitioners in the field.

“There’s plenty of research to show that there’s a huge correlation between a few specific personality characteristics and then accidents on the job,” Julie Caplinger of Aon Hewitt said. Given this, hiring managers can use psychometric assessments upfront in the recruitment process to determine candidates’ safety profiles, and whether they are suitable for the particular work environment.

It is possible, for instance, to identify an individual’s tendency to comply with rules, their conscientiousness, and their impulsiveness, Peter Berry, managing director of Peter Berry Consultancy said. One of Berry’s clients in the construction industry insists that any supervisor they contract executes a safety profile to show that they fit the profile.

But even once candidates have already been hired, psychometric assessment can be used to enhance the existing health and safety culture. Even just confronting an employee with their own risky attitudes can help them adjust. “Often giving the employees the self-awareness to know, ‘Hey, I’m a little bit more extroverted than my co-workers, so when I talk to them a lot it distracts them and it’s not safe’ is helpful,” Caplinger added.

Jason Blaik, a psychologist with Onetest, agreed that psychometric tests can help in identifying areas of risk, for example those employees who take too many risks, who do not manage well under stress, or have lax attitudes towards drugs or violence in the workplace. “We work with clients in highlighting potentially those particular areas amongst an employee group and then we look at ways those particular attitudes can be changed through education, through training,” he said.

“Hopefully, the self-awareness that leads to the behaviour change and, ultimately, causes the culture change,” Caplinger said.


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