The ABCs of New Employee Safety
July 13, 2011 4 Comments
Who is a new employee? Sounds simple—it is the newly hired employee starting work at a new company, right? That’s right, but it’s not a complete answer. New employees include people who transfer to a new position, return to work after an extended absence, operate a new piece of equipment or implement a new procedure.
Approximately 27 percent of job-related fatalities involve employees who have been on a new job for less than 90 days, according to a recent Texas Mutual claim analysis. Similarly, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) Office of Statistics says 40 percent of employees injured at work have been on the job less than one year. New employees need to be made aware of how serious safety training is from their first day at a new job.
There are many reasons new employees are more likely to get injured than experienced workers. For one, management frequently assumes new employees have more knowledge pertaining to the job than they actually do. In turn, employers may not provide thorough and complete training for new employees. New employees may also put themselves at risk because they hesitate to ask questions for fear of appearing incapable in front of peers or supervisors.
Here are a few tips on safety education for new employees, which may help your company avoid adding to the statistics.
Start early, and be thorough
The sooner new employees start practicing safe work behaviors, the more likely those behaviors are to become habits. Don’t just explain what to do; take time to explain what not to do and what the consequences may be if safe work procedures are not followed. Ask employees to repeat procedures or tasks until you are confident they can do the job safely.
Follow-up training should be part of the new employee orientation process. Those first days at a new job are filled with many new procedures, rules and activities. Frequent follow-up gives new employees the opportunity to ask questions with less hesitation. When new employees consistently demonstrate they understand the new task, less frequent follow-up is necessary. If employees do not understand a procedure, encourage them to ask questions. It takes more than one day to turn a new employee into a safe, productive worker.
Provide a clear and concise safety policy
New employees need to know there is a comprehensive commitment to safety throughout the company. Put your commitment in writing, and make it visible for new staff, as well as current personnel. It is critical that new employees avoid taking risks. Encourage them to ask questions if they do not understand safety procedures. New employees have to trust that management will not reprimand them for seeking help.
Enforce this simple rule among all employees, including new employees: If a task or action makes you uncomfortable or raises a concern, don’t do it!
Most injuries can be avoided if employees learn to recognize unsafe situations. Encouraging new employees to think about prevention will make them more aware of unsafe practices and better prepared to help their co-workers.
Management takes the lead
Management often relies on employees to report unsafe conditions or hazards in the workplace. Therefore, employees must feel comfortable approaching a manager or supervisor about these conditions. Employees should not be reprimanded for reporting unsafe working conditions. If management demonstrates a commitment to safety, new employees are likely to follow their lead.
Observe often, and provide feedback
While new employees are learning and adapting to the job, it is essential to observe and monitor their work practices and behaviors. Observation helps to determine whether new employees are taking safety training to heart. It also creates an opportunity for supervisors to provide feedback on a new employee’s performance.
Make safety resources available
Providing employees with clear, written communications on a company’s safety expectations and practices is key to ensuring there is a consistent message about workplace safety.
Remembering these precautions when introducing a new hire to the company’s safety practices can greatly increase efficiency, productivity, morale and profitability. More importantly, it can prevent accidents and injuries.