Psychologist Abraham Maslow rated safety just above basic physical requirements like food and water when he developed his hierarchy of human needs. Maslow believed humans valued their personal safety more than love or friendship.
Despite that, all humans don’t necessarily follow safe practices, especially in their work. Safety professionals are often surprised by workers who put themselves in serious danger of injury or even death.
Being able to glimpse into a job candidate’s attitude toward safety and safe practices offers a significant amount of insight into how that candidate will approach safety as an employee. Candidates who see safety as important and who follow safety policies typically conform with the other rules and practices associated with their jobs. Workers with strong safety mindsets tend to be more mature, more productive, and more oriented toward quality. Just as important, they’re concerned about everyone’s safety on the worksite, not just their own.
The interview process offers an important opportunity to develop a strong sense of a candidate’s attitudes about safety. The eight questions outlined here will offer important insight and provide a strong sense of whether the prospective employee will further or frustrate your safety objectives.
- What project that you’ve been on had the best safety program and why?It’s likely that anyone who has been on several jobsites has encountered a wide variety of safety programs. If a prospective employee can answer this question immediately, it’s a sign they have actually paid attention to workplace safety.
- What would you do if you had to perform a task but lacked the required PPE?
While it’s never acceptable to perform a task without the appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE), some supervisors may pressure workers to do so. This question provides insight into both whether the prospective employee understands the importance of proper PPE and how they address conflicts on the jobsite.
- Have you ever disagreed with a supervisor about a safety matter, and how did you handle it?
A worker who is willing to call an unsafe practice into question can be a valuable addition to the worksite, even more so if they’re able to raise those issues respectfully and constructively.
- Tell me about a situation when you corrected another worker for being unsafe.
Nobody wants to be a “safety cop,” but workers must look out for one another and step up and correct unsafe practices before an incident occurs. Again, you’ll gain insight into the worker’s approach to the inevitable conflicts that arise on worksites.
- Talk about a time when you had to take an immediate action to ensure someone’s safety.
How does the prospective employee handles crisis situations, such as when the safety of others demands action? Was the response intuitive, or did the worker have to stop and think about whether to act?
- What would you do if you discovered that our workplace lacks a key piece of safety equipment?
You should hear a respect for the proper chain of command on the worksite, along with no hesitation about raising safety-related issues. New arrivals on jobsites often spot things longtime workers may ignore.
- How would you handle it if you were aware that a co-worker had a substance abuse problem?
Substance abuse can create tricky situations. Does the candidate’s answer assure you they’ll take immediate and appropriate action, or is their answer vague? Workers with substance abuse problems endanger themselves, their co-workers, the project’s integrity, and the company’s reputation, so a safety-minded employee will not tolerate that kind of behavior.
- Give me an example of a safety practice you use in your home.
Safety-conscious workers don’t leave those attitudes behind when they clock out. They wear PPE when working on home projects, make sure electrical outlets aren’t overloaded, and keep hazardous household chemicals where children can’t reach them. A candidate should be able to provide one or more examples without hesitation.
If any answers to these questions leave you less than confident about the candidate’s attitudes toward safety, don’t be afraid to dig deeper and to check with past employers. It only takes one employee with the wrong attitudes to endanger everyone on your site.