Testing to Screen Out Reckless Employees

Posted on Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Can potentially harmful employees be identified before they become a liability to the workplace? It's possible. A number of companies have created screening tools designed to weed out workers who have a higher propensity to become safety liabilities or become violent. These firms design evaluations that help to identify potential workers who are a risk to themselves, those around them, and their employers. Several companies have documented a marked improvement in workplace safety after implementing employee screening.

How Does It Work?

Employee attitudes are evaluated on a number of different axes. One testing firm examines worker attitudes regarding an array of areas, for example:


Inhibition and Risk Aversion. Employees who score low on an inhibition scale also tend to be more prone to workplace injury. Testing may be helpful in identifying applicants and employees who are more prone to thrill-seeking and engaging in dangerous activities and recklessness compared to their more cautious, risk-averse peers.
Stress Maintenance. Workers who are easily stressed tend to be more prone to workplace injury. Employees with better stress management skills however, prove to be more resilient in the face of challenges, and tend to be safer to work with than co-workers with poor stress management skills.
Drug Aversion. Testing can help to identify any permissive attitudes towards illicit substance abuse, which can be a precursor for tolerating drug use in the workplace.
Locus of Control. Some employees, who have an internal locus of control, believe that they can manifest change in their environment through individual effort and discipline. Others, with a more external locus of control, believe changing their environment lies in the factors perceived to be outside of their control. These individuals are more likely to be passive in following safety procedures to maintain a safe work environment. Safety-conscious employers should seek workers with a high locus of control, who are more willing to take control of their environment to address and minimize risk.
Propensity to Violence. Individuals who self-report aggressive behavior as appropriate and permissible are more inclined to precipitate violence in the workplace and to tolerate this behavior among fellow workers. Moreover, employees who indicate low levels of emotional control are also more likely to cause issues in their place of work.

Another employee safety screening provider found a statistically significant positive correlation between employee testing and improved safety conditions across a number of different fields. Businesses determined that selecting out potential employees who did not pass the examinations lead to a drop in the number of overall worker injury claims by one-third, and a proportionately reduced number of Workers' Compensation claims. Businesses that screened out failed applicants also reduced employee turnover by an average of 17 percent.

In one published case study involving a major North American retail chain, the company examined the safety performance of 4,000 employees at 26 stores. According to the survey, the retailer was able to reduce general liability claims by 23 percent, and reduce Workers' Compensation claims by 31 percent over a five-month period, as compared to the same five months the previous year.

When Is it Most Effective?

Employee safety screening techniques such as testing assessments are especially helpful in fields where a large percentage of workplace injury is the result of human error, and in which the potential for injury is severe. For example, these kinds of screening tests are very useful in the mining, steel and transportation industries, where inattention and neglect may easily result in serious injury or death. It is also particularly cost-effective wherever management perceives a chronic problem with employee adherence to safety procedures and the exercise of good judgment and common sense.


Tools such as these tests aren't limited to screening employees. They can also be used to compare departments across the same company. For example, test scores can be compared between departments within the same company and used to help assess the leadership climate among various offices, locations or departments. When good leaders place emphasis on employee safety from the top, those attitudes are contagious. Workers tend to follow the example of their leaders. Consistently low scores in one department may indicate a management problem rather than a worker problem.

Worker safety assessments are not fail safe. As long as humans are fallible, and equipment can malfunction, accidents will happen. But the use of employee screening tools, combined with a rigorous follow-up process, seems to be effective in reducing accidents, liability, and costs.

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