Employee turnover can make conducting adequate safety training a challenge. There are, however, steps that companies should take when providing training for new hires—whether those employees are temporary or permanent.
Safety orientation for all new hires should be compulsory and basic occupational health and safety training for workers is required by law. It’s important to ensure that all new hires receive the same safety training regardless of scheduling conflicts, budget constraints or the nature of the employment contract. Here are several ways to ensure that all new employees are properly trained in safety.
Never skip safety orientation
Everyone needs to receive safety orientation. These sessions should include information on workers’ duties and rights, the responsibilities of their supervisors, common workplace hazards they may encounter, the role of their in-house safety committees and the role of the government agency that regulates workplace safety. It’s also important to include hands-on instruction and physical demonstrations in safety training as they can help ensure better material retention.
Of course, not all training can be done on the first day. Nor should it—information overload wouldn’t ensure anyone’s safety. So it’s important to schedule the sessions to match the needs of the workplace, the work and the workers. There are sample orientation checklist available online but employers should, at the very least, consider these few points:
- Assign a pre-training test to find out what employees know and don’t know about safety in their new position. It can be helpful to find out what safety practices, if any, employees used in their previous work and if they match their new responsibilities. This information will help employers gauge quickly what is lacking and what needs extra attention.
- On their first day of work, make sure new employees know that safety comes first. They should understand that adhering to workplace safety rules is part of their job evaluation, which, in the case of contract workers, can have an impact on contract extensions or securing a permanent position.
- Consider how permanent, more experienced workers can help educate new employees. For example, think about whether it’s possible to assign each new worker an experienced safety buddy for a few weeks. The safety-conscious co-worker could help monitor their new colleague’s behavior and correct any mistakes until the new hire had a firmer grasp of their safety duties and responsibilities.
- Provide new workers with written safety regulations and emergency plans. It can also be helpful to include a safety rules checklist in the materials. These can cover anything you find important and relevant to workers’ responsibilities, such as procedures and PPE. Ideally, they’d keep it on them to refer to when needed.
- Remember that training and refreshers should also be provided to employees who are returning from an extended period away or have been transferred to new jobs or work areas.
Don’t assume that a temporary or contract worker is not your responsibility
Even if your company hires workers through an employment agency, the employer is still responsible for contract employees’ safety. So all temporary workers must be treated like any other employee in terms of training and safety.
The specifics of each employment contract are important in understanding the employer’s responsibility, but according to OSHA, staffing agencies and employers working with them are jointly responsible for providing and maintaining a safe work environment for employees, which includes OSHA training and recordkeeping. The agency and the host employer should communicate to ensure that the necessary protections are provided. And although the employer has to provide workers with a safe workplace, the agency has a duty to investigate and verify that the host employer has fulfilled their responsibilities.
An ideal scenario is for the agency and the employer to cooperate on safety. An agency might consider providing workers with general safety training with an employer filling in the gaps by providing more specific instruction focused on their particular workplace. However, not all temporary or contract workers are employed by agencies and employers should never assume that training has already been provided to new hires. Erring on the side of caution, this means companies should design the most comprehensive safety training possible for new hires when they join the workplace.
Use toolbox talks
Conducting toolbox talks can help employees more quickly learn proper safety habits and other actions. Holding safety talks before each shift helps new hires into the habit of thinking about safety at all times.
It can encourage them to remember to use their PPE, for example, or that they check their equipment before performing tasks. It will also help them learn from other people’s perspectives and helps managers and supervisors monitor whether any employees are missing key safety information.
Consider human factors training
According to OSHA, thirty-four states have requirements or voluntary guidelines for workplace injury and illness prevention programs. And the most successful programs include education and training as well as program evaluations and improvements that cannot be performed without worker input.
When looking to establish an injury and illness prevention program, it’s worth investigating human factors training. This training can help prevent a variety of incidents and injuries irrespective of what other task-specific instruction workers receive. Many slips, trips and falls, for example, are caused by a worker’s state of mind. But human factors training addresses states like complacency, rushing or frustration that can easily cause workers to miss or ignore something vital or overlook essential procedures. Learning how to deal with these states will allow employees to perform their work with awareness and focus on safety.
The growing number of new employees or contract workers in the labor force presents a notable challenge to EHS managers. It’s mandatory that safety leaders meet employees’ rights to adequate training and find new ways to ensure short-term hires are protected in the workplace.
Safety orientation should occur as soon as a new hire signs on and training should be conducted in ways that are conducive to better retention. Human factors training will benefit employees regardless of how long they’ll be working at the company. Following these steps will ensure that new hires are off on the right foot when it comes to safety training.