How Organizations Can Identify Risk-Prone Employees

Topic(s): Health & Safety, selection
Publication: Journal of Applied Psychology
Article: A Conditional Reasoning Test for Risk and Incident Propensity: Development and Validation
Authors: A.D. Baxley, J.A. DeSimone, D.J. Svyantek, K. Noll
Reviewed by: Katherine Facteau

Workplace accidents can be detrimental to employee health and an organization’s bottom line. One strategy for preventing these accidents is to consider which people are more likely than others to engage in risky behavior. “Dangerous” people could then be screened out during the employee selection process. However, the researchers of this study (Baxley et al., 2023) note that likelihood of risky behavior has been a difficult concept to measure. Therefore, they develop a new test that shows promise for improving workplace safety.


The researchers developed a test that asks participants to respond to several different scenarios. Based on the responses, the researchers were able to determine whether applicants are more likely to engage in dangerous behavior. For example, applicant responses may indicate that they believe themselves to be invulnerable, which could make them more risk prone.

The researchers tested their approach in eight different groups of people, including firefighters, bus drivers, and nursing students. They found that their test predicted safety and risk behavior better than existing measures could. The researchers’ approach could predict outcomes such as injuries, near misses, and even contracting COVID or speeding while driving. Further, participants were largely unable to guess what this new test was measuring, indicating it may not be susceptible to faking, a common weakness of existing measures.


Safety is vital in organizations, especially when the risk of accidents is high. The new test presented by the researchers demonstrated good ability to identify people who may be more likely to engage in risky behavior. Thus, organizations may be able to prevent workplace injuries by using this measure during selection to screen out risk-prone applicants.


Baxley, A. D., DeSimone, J. A., Svyantek, D. J., & Noll, K. (2024). A conditional reasoning test for risk and incident propensity: Development and validation. Journal of Applied Psychology. Advance online publication.

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