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The Safety Interview

By Hartshorn, Dan | Occupational Hazards, October 1999 | Go to article overview

The Safety Interview


Hartshorn, Dan, Occupational Hazards


How to make safety part of your job applicant screening process.

Screening of prospective employees should include questions that will probe the applicant's reasoning ability, attitude, and knowledge concerning safety. These qualities represent significant job skills that should be evaluated as part of the selection process.

Unfortunately, the issue of safety is overlooked by many employers during the process of screening job applicants. The "Safety Interview" form, found on page 108 of this article, provides safety questions that can be helpful in the screening process. The form can be filled out by a prospective employee prior to an interview or the form can be used as a guide for questioning the applicant during an interview, Each employer can, of course, add or delete questions to make the questionnaire more relevant to a particular job.

The safety interview questions are designed to be open-ended, so "yes" and "no" answers are not possible. These open-ended questions force the applicant to reveal more of his or her thoughts and feelings concerning safety. Some of the questions also provide an opportunity for the applicant to demonstrate specific safety knowledge.

Reasoning ability, attitude and knowledge are three separate qualities. Each of these qualities should be assessed. For example, it should not be assumed that, because an applicant has a good knowledge of safety, his or her attitude concerning safety is also good. Many accidents occur because the injured chose to ignore the rules and procedures.

* Reasoning Ability: The ability to understand the important elements in a question and fashion an answer with a reasonably safe solution. When given the proper training about safety, people with good reasoning ability tend to make good safety decisions. After all, what could be more logical than behavior that protects your own health and safety?

* Attitude: The feeling that the applicant has toward the importance of safety. For various reasons, people have widely different levels of concern about personal safety. A good attitude is usually the most important quality an applicant can have. Typically, changing an applicant's attitude is much more difficult than improving the person's knowledge of safe practices.

* Knowledge: Some questions provide the opportunity for applicants to demonstrate specific safety knowledge. If an inexperienced applicant has poor safety knowledge, but a good attitude and reasoning ability, he or she is still a good candidate for the job. However, if the applicant claims experience and he or she has poor safety knowledge, this indicates a problem. Either the person did not have the experience claimed or the person's attitude was so poor that basic safety knowledge was not retained.

Safety Interview Questions and Sample Answers

Employers usually can expect responses to be good because the applicant is trying to impress the interviewer. Ask yourself, however, which response is best in each of the following examples.

Question: "Why is it necessary for employers to have safety programs and safety rules?"

Sample Responses:

"Employers have to follow OSHA rules."

"Employers are afraid they will be sued if someone gets hurt."

"Safety programs and safety rules are necessary to comply with OSHA laws, to reduce the human suffering caused by injuries and to reduce the financial loss to both the employer and the employee that occurs as the result of injuries."

"Employers have safety programs because they want to avoid the hassles associated with accidents."

Question: "What would you do if you saw a fellow employee working in an unsafe way?"

Sample Responses:

"If I saw a fellow employee working unsafely, I would let him or her know right away how to do the job correctly."

"If someone were working unsafely, I would immediately tell my supervisor.

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