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How can performance reviews be used as part of safety culture and maintaining a safe work environment?

By Brad Hestbak | Last updated: April 26, 2022
Presented by CQ Network

Performance reviews are a simple but effective tool for developing your organization's safety culture and encouraging a safe work environment.

These reviews are typically conducted annually by supervisors. A worker's performance review will outline their job duties, highlight areas for improvement, and recognize what they have accomplished over the year.

Safety issues should be a focal point of the review process, especially in high-risk working environments. However, this should not be the only formal feedback workers get on safety. Waiting for the annual review is simply unacceptable when it comes to ensuring that workers understand their safety responsibilities, are aware of the hazards pertaining to their jobs, and have an opportunity to ask questions and provide input on safe work practices.


To get the most about these performance reviews, it's important to treat them seriously. Instead of a mere formality, they should be conducted thoughtfully, in a way that reinforces safe work practices and encourages worker engagement.

(Find out How to Build a Sustainable Safety Culture)

The Goals of a Performance Review

When putting together a performance review, remember that they should:

  • Motivate employees, encouraging them to produce quality work while also making safety a priority.
  • Recognize safe behavior as well as productivity. Workers who have demonstrated improvement over the year should be commended for it. Those who keep a steady record of safework practices should be encouraged to continue the good work.
  • Provide opportunities for personal development by giving constructive feedback and indicating areas for improvement. Where improvement is critical and necessary, highlight specific instances of inadequate practices and give clear instructions on how to carry out the work safely.
  • Help in organizational development, since a safer workforce reflects well on the company as a whole.

A worker's safety performance should take into consideration the following:

  1. Adherence to specific safety practices
  2. Ability to check the workplace for safety issues, including unsafe conditions and workplace hazards
  3. Reporting of illness or workplace injury
  4. Knowledge of the company's safety program
  5. Proper use of safety equipment

Since the performance review's overall goal is not to penalize or shame workers but to provide encouragement, the language should be positive and optimsitic. The focus should be on opportunities for improvement, rather than negative critiques.

(Learn more in Face-to-Face Safety: The Right Way to Build a Safety Culture)

Safety Performance Questions for Employees

Performance reviews should be a two-way process. It's not simply handing an employee an evaluation, but also having a discussion with them. This discussion should be guided in part by a set of formal questions, such as:

  • Which safety accomplishment are you most proud of?
  • Is there anything we can do to make your work environment safer?
  • Do you feel like you have all the equipment, tools, and support needed to perform your job safely?
  • Do you have any questions about the company's safety policies?
  • Are there any workplace hazards you feel haven't been fully addressed?
  • Is there anything that holds back your performance?
  • Does your PPE ever impede your ability to work productively, comfortably, or safely?

Improving Safety Culture with Performance Reviews

Generic performance reviews won't do a whole lot to improve workplace safety. They'll provide you with another document to file away, but not much more.

But if supervisors put some thought into their feedback, provide positive encouragement, and engage in a two-way dialogue with workers, you'll get a lot more out of them. It will be one more tool that helps you create and maintain a positive and flourishing safety culture in your workplace.

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Written by Brad Hestbak

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Brad is a writer, content developer, and business consultant. His work focuses on enhancing the capacity of individuals, businesses, not-for-profits, and communities through information design and content creation.

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