Safety Reviews: The Work Comp Playbook For Employers

Ideally, your company already has a form of annual review process in place. These reviews, however, do not solely need to be restricted to addressing your employees’ job performance; they can also be used as a vehicle to measure employees’ safety performance and help you with planning for the future, and can additionally aid in your workers’ compensation process. Have you ever found yourself saying about an employee out on workers’ compensation, “We should have fired them sooner”? Low performers are more likely to malinger, as our Compass Performance Review module demonstrated in an analysis of a client’s past five years of lost time claims: 80 percent of their claimants were in the bottom 25 percent in performance reviews.

Performance reviews can show you when an employee isn’t pulling his or her weight, and the next step to take from there is to turn the review into an opportunity to learn about potential workplace hazards and address them to create a better workplace safety culture.

Why Performance Reviews Fail

In the past decade, workplace reviews have been the topic of many a debate over their effectiveness. Back in 2010, for example, the New York Times questioned the effectiveness of performance reviews, claiming that they often do more harm than good by heavily increasing the stress placed on employees at work. In 2017, Gallup addressed the high levels of employee disengagement (51 percent of American employees were found to be disengaged, 16 percent were actively disengaged and unhappy in the workplace, and the remaining 33 percent were satisfied) and pointed to outdated methods of management and performance review as the reason why, claiming that workplaces needed a “coaching culture.”

In management firm CEB’s study, 95 percent of managers interviewed expressed dissatisfaction with their company’s performance review methods, and 90 percent of HR professionals surveyed felt that the annual review process did not yield accurate results. The common thread in many of these criticisms was that performance reviews place too much of an emphasis on the past and not enough on the future. While it is important to discuss employees’ past behavior, focusing too heavily on that and the discipline end of things can cause employees to care more about themselves than the lessons that you are trying to impart.

What to Try Instead

In 2017, the annual review process definitely needs a revamp. Some employers have elected to replace the antiquated process with manager-employee check-ins that occur far more frequently than once a year. This process is called a 360-degree review. While your performance review will include many factors besides safety here are some examples of questions you can ask from a safety perspective. Imagine the traction you would get on your safety program if your supervisors engaged employees on a quarterly basis and asked the following questions:

  • Ask the employee a follow up question after training has been completed to gauge comprehension.
  • While they are engaged with the employee, check to make sure the proper PPE is being worn.
  • Ask the employee for a safety suggestion. Employees should be required to give at least 4 safety suggestions a year as part of their annual review.
  • Ask the employee if they are having any safety issues.

This quarterly evaluation form should be placed in the employee’s file and used as part of the annual review. This 360-degree review allows for a more accurate gauge of the employees’ safety habits, and spreading the reviews out across the year makes it feel less severe for the employee. While we still recommend an annual review of some sort, industries with higher turnover rates would benefit from far more frequent reviews with their new hires (such as a 90-day review). In these reviews, include plans for the future as well as discussions of the past. Assess the employee’s’ performance and safety habits, but after they’ve been assessed you need to take the results and incorporate them into employee action plans.

We recommend the following process for annual employee reviews:

  1. Outline objectives. Before the review process, have management communicate what they would like to achieve with these reviews.
  2. Determine how the review will be administered. Reviews can be done on paper or in person, and it is up to your company to determine what is best for you.
  3. Create the assessment. The assessment should be uniform across the company to ensure that everyone is being treated fairly.
  4. Prepare the employees for review. If your employees know what to expect from the review, they will feel less anxious and will be more likely to take your assessment to heart. Communicate clearly when the review will be and what it will entail.
  5. Train the individuals involved. The team you place in charge of reviews should be impartial and effective in assessing your employees.
  6. Administer the reviews.
  7. Collect the reviews. We recommend keeping the results on file for better transparency and to better create action plans.
  8. Deliver the results.
  9. Create an employee action plan. The plan should take into account what you learned in the reviews and should be communicated clearly to your employees.
  10. Repeat the process.

About Compass RMS

The risk management firm Risk Management, Inc. has specialized in workers’ compensation since 1996, creating the CWCP (Certified Workers’ Compensation Professional) program in 1999 and the P4 process in 2000. We launched our Compass Risk Management platform in 2008 and recently released version 4.0. For more information about our services, give us a call at (770) 534-2042 to speak with one of our consultants.