During a recent conversation I had with a consultant friend of mine, he told me an interesting story about one of his projects. He asked that I not use the client in question’s name, so I’ll call it Company A, but it is a mid-size oilfield services company that manufactures parts for offshore oil rigs. My friend’s firm was contracted by Company A to update both their tests used to test job candidates and their employee development program, with an overall goal of reducing production times. His team first went through the standard procedures of developing and implementing the most current versions of their traditional pre-hire tests. They then introduced a set of promotion standards for hourly employees moving into front-line management positions. In addition to performance, technical knowledge, and other ratings, they included the employee’s safety performance (previous safety incidents and ratings of safety behavior provided by their immediate supervisor). The result was that employees who were involved in fewer safety incidents and were rated as safer workers by their bosses were identified as desirable candidates for promotion. Once would expect that these individuals would probably have stronger SafetyDNATM profiles compared to others. No safety training of any kind was administered in addition to these new procedures. The outcomes of these changes were quite interesting.
As expected, Company A’s average production times had decreased somewhat two years after the completion of the consulting project (specific numbers are not available, but the reduction was described as ‘significant’). However, my friend was surprised to discover that the biggest improvement made as a result of the new procedures came in terms of employee safety. In fact, during the same two-year time period, Company A’s incident rate dropped from 8.5 per 200,000 man hours worked all the way down to 0.4. What I find most remarkable about this improvement is that it emerged in spite of the fact that they did not administer safety training, nor was safety even the focal concern of the project. It occurred naturally when the best candidates and incumbents were placed in the appropriate positions. Company A has since gone on to win two industry-sponsored safety awards, and boasts reduced health care costs associated with injury recovery and workers’ compensation benefits.