Accidents will happen?

Paul Boughton
Accident proneness is not a disposition that one can easily write off as a 'quirk', according to, one of the web's sources of personality, career, and IQ assessments.

The results of a study on accident-prone employees indicates high-risk individuals were severely lacking in key traits like conscientiousness, harm avoidance, attentiveness, and respect for rules.

Some people may admit with a sheepish grin that theyare a bit of a 'klutz', but there are certain personality traits that can make accidents more likely, as the latest research from PsychTests indicates.

Its study reveals that employees who were more likely to be fired for unsafe behaviour possessed a combination of traits, namely high sensation seeking (desire for novel and exciting experiences), low harm avoidance (desire to steer clear of situations that have the potential for negative consequences), low conscientiousness, poor attention span, lack of respect for rules, and an unwillingness to take responsibility for their actions.

Age comparisons reveal that men and women below the age of 25 tended to be the most accident prone. Traits like sensation seeking and rule breaking decreased with age, while harm avoidance, conscientiousness, attentiveness and responsibility increased with age. Older adults were also more likely to have a strict attitude toward safety rules - and toward those who neglect to follow them.

"It's important to understand that the traits that contribute to accident proneness should be taken as a whole - as a profile," explains Dr Jerabek, president of the company. "Sensation seeking alone, for example, isn't necessarily a 'bad' thing - combined with high conscientious, you'll have an employee who is likely to be a confident and calculated risk-taker. However, if you have someone who is a sensation seeker, who is not conscientious, and who has a contempt for rules, you may have someone who is going to be more of a liability in a job where 'safety first' is essential."

On the flipside, performance ratings were highest for those who had a strict attitude toward safety, who were attentive and responsible, and who scored well in conscientiousness, a trait that has been found to be crucial in high-risk jobs like police officers (Detrick & Chibnall, 2006) and production workers (Wallance & Vodanovich, 2003), and to be a strong predictor of job performance in general, across different occupations (Stewart, 1999).

"Screening for accident-related personality traits can be a crucial part of the hiring process, especially for jobs where safety is a top priority," advises Dr. Jerabek. "This is what makes personality assessments the more cost-effective approach. Screening for high-risk people before hiring is a lot easier and cheaper than firing unsafe employees after the fact."

PsychTests' study on accident-prone workers also reveals that:

* 64 per cent would quit their job without finding a new one first.
* 80 per cent will bend safety rules to save time or effort.
* 87 per cent believe that rules are made to be broken.
* 91 per cent admitted that they are easily distracted by things happening around them (eg phone ringing, conversations nearby, etc.).
* 94 per cent admitted that if they don't see the point of a rule, they won't follow it.
* Only 9 per cent would intervene if they saw a colleague breaking an important safety rule.
* Only 10 per cent ask for advice from colleagues or supervisors before making risky decisions/manoeuvers.
* Only 10 per cent wear their seatbelt every time they are in a car.
* Only 14 per cent stated that they check their work carefully before considering it done.

Those who wish to learn more about their own degree of accident proneness can go to

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