A new personality trait that can predict safe/unsafe behaviours of individual workers

by | Jan 8, 2017 | HR-dependent

There were a number of attempts to link personality traits to safety behaviors and injuries that turned out to be of limited use [1]–[3].

In 1994, researchers from the University of Missouri, proposed a new personality trait called Consideration of Future Consequences (CFC) and found a way to measure it on a continuum from high to low future orientation.

Individuals with high scores:

Believe certain behaviors are worth the extra effort in order to get the future benefits, even ifthat means sacrificing immediate benefits or even if the immediate outcomes are unpleasant or uncomfortable.

Individuals with low scores:

  • Are not interested in considering distant, future consequences.
  • Want to maximize immediate outcomes at the expense of future benefits.
  • Pay more attention to the immediate, tangible outcomes of their behavior

Over the years CFC has been linked to:

  • Stronger academic performance [4] (prioritizing studying over partying),
  • A lesser need to seek adrenaline and sensation [5]
  • More engagement in environmentally friendly behaviors, such as carpooling to reduce pollution [6].

CFC applied to safety

In 2013, an international team of researchers [7] demonstrated that CFC can be very useful in predicting safety behaviors. They showed that the CFC:

  • was positively correlated with safety knowledge, motivation, and safety compliance,
  • predicted workers’ attitudes and engagement towards reporting an accident and lower injury rate
  • predicted whether employees would engage in accident under-reporting

WHY it works

Workers with high CFC would be more likely to prioritize their safety despite temporary discomfort, whereas workers with low CFC may do the opposite.

For instance, following procedures or wearing personal protective equipment may be uncomfortable. Thus, a worker with low CFC would be more inclided to ignore basic safety procedure and rules that they view as inconvenient or uncomfortable, such as using the pedestrian path, wearing gloves, or using glasses.

The 6 questions used in the cited study [7]:

Preference of Future Outcomes:

  1. Even though reporting accidents can take a lot of time and effort, it helps other workers in the future.
  2. Failure to immediately report a workplace injury might result in serious problems later.
  3. Even though it sometimes takes longer, it is better in the long run to follow appropriate safety procedures.

Preference of Immediate Outcomes:

  1. Safety practices aren’t worth time or effort when the risk of injury is low.
  2. Pre-job inspections take too much time away from getting the job done.
  3. I sometimes need to compromise safety in order to meet production demands.
Please note that these questions are copyrighted by the Universities which conducted the research.

Case Study

An engineering maintenance company, providing overhaul services to the power generation sector, had to recruit a large numbers of skilled workforce for temporary projects. Safety performance was one of the key performance indicators set in the contract.

The company used a modified version of the CFC measure during the recruitment process to screen out individuals with high and low CFC. The Consideration of Future Consequences was also used during the interviews.

The use of CFC helped to identify individuals with strong tendencies to disregard rules and prioritization of immediate consequences.

Please contact us if you are interested in using our adapted version of the CFC.

[1]         J. C. Ferguson, M. S. McNally, and R. F. Booth, “Individual Characteristics as Predictors of Accidental Injuries in Naval Personnel.,” DTIC Document, 1983.[2]         C. P. Hansen, “A causal model of the relationship among accidents, biodata, personality, and cognitive factors.,” J. Appl. Psychol., vol. 74, no. 1, p. 81, 1989.[3]         J. P. Leigh, “Individual and job characteristics as predictors of industrial accidents,” Accid. Anal. Prev., vol. 18, no. 3, pp. 209–216, 1986.[4]         B. R. Peters, J. Joireman, and R. L. Ridgway, “Individual differences in the consideration of future consequences scale correlate with sleep habits, sleep quality, and GPA in university students,” Psychol. Rep., vol. 96, no. 3, pp. 817–824, 2005.[5]         J. Joireman, J. Anderson, and A. Strathman, “The aggression paradox: understanding links among aggression, sensation seeking, and the consideration of future consequences.,” J. Pers. Soc. Psychol., vol. 84, no. 6, p. 1287, 2003.[6]         J. A. Joireman, P. A. M. Van Lange, and M. Van Vugt, “Who cares about the environmental impact of cars? Those with an eye toward the future,” Environ. Behav., vol. 36, no. 2, pp. 187–206, 2004.[7]         T. M. Probst, M. Graso, A. X. Estrada, and S. Greer, “Consideration of future safety consequences: A new predictor of employee safety,” Accid. Anal. Prev., vol. 55, pp. 124–134, 2013.

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