Zero Accident Culture

Hiring for Zero

How it pays to be selective.

John Wayhart

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has cited that 40 percent of employees injured at work have been on the job for less than a year. The cost impact recordable injuries can have on your company, including workers’ compensation costs and higher premiums due to an increased experience modification factor, is significant. To limit your operation’s potential exposure, hiring smart and being selective with new job candidates is imperative.

The interview process can be costly, but not as much as a safety incident.

On average, the cost to recruit and hire a new employee can vary anywhere from $1,500 to $5,000. In hindsight, this may sound like a great deal of money for your company, but if you think hiring professionals is expensive, try hiring amateurs. The average indemnity claim costs $21,300. It would take over $425,000 in sales to make up the cost of just one claim if the company’s profit margin is at 5 percent. Imagine that number coupled with the fact that 40 percent of injured employees have been on the job less than a year. The cost to recruit and hire a new employee doesn’t seem so large anymore, further emphasizing the fact that every new hire is an opportunity to advance your company or wreak havoc on it. If you’re going to spend the money to recruit and hire a candidate, discern whether they have the skillset and safety concern necessary during the interview process to become a return on investment, rather than your next insurance claim.

Recruiting the Right Talent

How your company is organized around recruiting and hiring for the next job opening requires strategy, persistence and preparation. This responsibility should not be taken lightly, as each selection can greatly impact the positive direction desired for your organization. Recruiting the right talent is the next step you can make to improve operations and further promote workplace excellence and safety.


The key to an effective hiring strategy is to have one. Most companies simply “wing it” when it comes to employee recruitment. Building a timeline with set goals for both the hiring and training process is a strategy to ensure the necessary transition time an employee and company needs for safe and profitable operations. Each position should have a detailed description of necessary skills, qualifications and abilities. Consult both supervisors and any past or present employees who hold that same position for a detailed analysis of the day-to-day functions and ways to succeed in that role. For example, if there is heavy lifting or driving requirements, these areas should be identified along with any comparable testing. It is better to screen out unqualified candidates than to put employees and your company at risk.


Keep focused on what characteristics you believe are the essential qualities a candidate must possess in order to become an employee at your company. Don’t waiver or compromise on an individual if he or she is not meeting the exact criteria set for the position. Think of employees as an investment. It is cheaper to recruit, hire, and keep the right individual than to have frequent turnover in a set position. Persistence in hiring the right candidate will yield a more favorable long-term result, in which the individual, company and workforce have lower incident rates and higher morale.


Preparation is a key stage within the selection process. You not only want to be prepared to evaluate your next new employee, but also showcase the strengths, expectations and examples of what it takes to become a member of your team—one that prides itself on operational efficiency and a Zero Accident Culture. Being prepared means:

  • Knowing what your company wants and how each employee fits into the long-term vision

  • Understanding what your safety ambitions are and how will this be conveyed during the interview

  • Researching and studying job applicants before your meeting

  • Formulating open-ended questions on the importance of minimizing risk and promoting a safe working environment

  • Having a strong closing that reiterates employee and company responsibility

You Never Get a Second Chance to Make a First Impression

During the interview process, gauge the candidates understanding of common industry exposures and their personal philosophy towards safe practices. At the same time, set forth the company’s expectations and determine whether your goals are aligned with theirs. Here is an example of a behavioral interview question centered on safety:

  • What was your best experience on the safety committee at your previous job(s)?

Rationale: They either were on the committee or not. If the candidate was on a committee and explained something that made an organizational and financial impact on the organization, you are on the right path.

If they were not on a safety committee, here’s an additional way to spin the question:

  • What contribution/s did you provide for a past safety committee representative?

Rationale: If the response is that they never did or thought to do so, you can state that at ABC Company, we expect everyone to be involved with our safety committee or initiatives in some form or another. If selected to be on the committee, you will be responsible for representing and upholding all safety initiatives in the company, as well as leading, coaching and mentoring others. If you are not on the committee, we expect you to add value by providing pertinent feedback as to where we can improve safety in your specific area, or where you might see a weakness in other areas of the organization.

You’re Hired!

I know this may be easier said than done, but the numbers really do speak for themselves. The cost of a claim or incident both financially and morally can be nearly triple the cost of hiring. Remember that strategy, persistence and preparation in the hiring process can pay dividends. It is essential to ask the tough, important questions during the interview phase to evaluate whether a person is the right fit for the company and the strong expectations you have towards promoting a

Zero Accident Culture.

John Wayhart is a Senior Vice President at Assurance Agency (Schaumburg, IL). With more than 29 years in the insurance and risk management industry, his expertise lies in providing solutions for a wide range of businesses including the waste and recycling industry. In the 1989, John trademarked the Zero Accident Culture® and continues to teach, coach and mentor this process to help drive down the cost of risk to improve operational effectiveness and financial results. He can be reached at (847) 463-7161 or [email protected]. See Assurance Agency at the Waste Expo, booth #19006.