Studies in Personnel and Industrial Psychology

By Edwin A. Fleishman | Go to book overview

factors. It is therefore apparent that in many instances personal accident proneness, which is but one of the components of accident liability, has been an overemphasized factor.


58. The Effect of Age and Experience upon Accident Rate*

R. H. Van Zelst

INDUSTRIAL ACCIDENTS, their prediction and control and the various factors related to and affecting them have long been a subject of study for the psychologist in industry. One of the specific topics of interest has been the relationships existing between the age and experience of the worker and his accident frequency.

Most research studies in this area have demonstrated the existence of some relationship between accidents and both experience and age. Though by no means universal the general conclusion arrived at in these experiments is that accident frequency tends to decline with increasing age and/or experience.

Many of the studies of experience suffer, however, from a procedural error. The most common method applied in this type of study appears to be to divide the men in a given organization into experience groups and then to calculate the accident rate of each group. The application of this method of necessity assumes that if no differences in experience exist, all of these different groups would have the same average number of accidents. However, it is also reasonable to assume that in many jobs the high-accident employees will tend to drop out either through retirement due to injury, separation or voluntarily leaving employment. Such a natural selection process tends to retain on the job only those persons who have maintained a certain safety standard in their operations.

The usually discovered decrease in accident frequency with experience may be due then to this natural selection process. What would then appear to be necessary in order that the effects of experience may be properly evaluated is to follow the accident history of the same group of workers over a period of time. Several studies1 have done

____________________
*
From Journal of Applied Psychology, Vol. 38, 1954, pp. 313-17.
1
C. W. Brown, E. E. Ghiselli, and E. W. Minium, Experience and Age in Relation to Proficiency of Street Car Motormen, Report to Municipal Railway System of San Francisco, 1946; L. W. Chaney and H. S. Hanna, Safety Movement in the Iron andSteel Industry

-558-

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