The recent oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico has led to a renewed interest in the topic of risk in general and occupational safety in particular. Accidents are the fifth leading cause of death among Americans after heart disease, cancer, stroke and respiratory disease (National Safety Council, 2005 – 2006). One of the major accomplishments of the twentieth century in the United States was the reduction in the workplace accident rate by 90% to where most workers are safer at work than anywhere else, with only 10% of accidental deaths occurring on the job. However, in 2008 there were still 5,214 workplace fatalities in the U.S. alone (U.S. Department of Labor). Furthermore, the number of non-fatal accidents far exceeds the number of workplace fatalities. Taken together, fatal and non-fatal accidents cost $140 Billion annually in the United States alone (National Safety Council, 2005 – 2006).
The Predictive Index® (PI®) has a long history of being used by a wide variety of industries to improve safety performance. Recently, a Global 1000 transportation company headquartered in North America completed a PI® validity study with its truck drivers with the goal of determining the personality traits of drivers with superior safety records. Note that transportation-related incidents alone accounted for 64% of all workplace fatalities in 2008.
In a sample of 89 drivers (median company tenure = 2.3 years), and using corporate safety incident data gathered over a four-year period, the PI® pattern would be characterized by the following behaviors:
- Unhurried and deliberate, stable and follows the established process.
- Dependable, consistent and is most productive in familiar environments, cooperative, easy-going, and agreeable in getting along with others.
- Methodical, steady, and even-paced; tends to lose productivity when interrupted.
- Driven to protect the company against risk by thoroughly leveraging his or her background and strictly following ‘the book.’
- Cautious; follows a well-established and proven plan to avoid making mistakes, detail-oriented and accommodating.
Another finding of note in this particular study was that more experienced drivers (i.e. those that had a longer tenure with the company) tended to have significantly fewer accidents, a result that placed an additional premium on the issue of driver retention.
Taken as a whole, the findings revealed in this study illustrate the substantial role that the PI can play in promoting occupational health and safety.