“If your idea of orienting a new employee is to quickly introduce them around and show them the bathroom and the coffee room, you need to reorient yourself.”
So warns safety training expert Dave Duncan — and industry statistics back him up. New employees are five times more likely to suffer a lost-time injury on the job within their first month than are more experienced workers. And, according to the Safety.BLR.com Web site, two in five workers injured on the job have been doing it less than a year.
Why are “newbies” so vulnerable, and more important, what can you do about it?
High injury rates are caused by a combination of ignorance and fear on the part of workers and employers alike. It’s no surprise that new workers are unfamiliar with the tools, conditions, and most important, safety hazards, associated with the job. However, many employers assume that new employees know more than they do. Certain jobs require precautions that might seem like common sense to someone who has spent years doing them, but are hazards that newcomers have never even thought about.
The fear comes when a rookie worker refusing to ask questions, so they won’t seem unable to do the job — and be vulnerable to termination. Questions also expand an instructor’s ability to deliver their knowledge by reminding them of things that they didn’t explain fully or forgot to mention. Supervisors need to remind new workers again and again that the more questions, the better.
Here’s how to encourage safe-mindedness on the job from Day One:
- Acclimate new hires to workplace safety starts as soon as possible. According to the BusinessKnowledgeSource.com Web site, orientation is the perfect place to introduce safety training to a new worker. The new hire packet should include a company safety policy that covers generic concerns and resources for additional information so that the employee feels comfortable asking questions.
- Incorporate safety information in your walk-through of the facility. While showing new workers the lay of the land, point out the safety elements you’ve built in, such as the location of fire exits and extinguishers, first-aid kits, and eyewash stations. Also stress less obvious safety features, such as how wide you’ve made walkways so that forklifts can safely traverse the area, and let employees know that they can make the workplace safer by keeping these pathways clean and clear. Imparting safety knowledge will also make the newcomer feel valued and informed, leading to a more engaged and productive employee.
- Last, but not least: If you haven’t already done so, set up and monitor a comprehensive safety training program for new hires.
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