New workers are more vulnerable to getting sick or injured, especially during the first month on the job. To help prevent these incidents, there are a number of tips, reminders, and questions that new workers should take into consideration to make sure they are starting their jobs safely and are being protected by their employers.
This photo of today includes an infographic that provides a checklist for workers so they can stay safe and healthy while on the job, including tips for COVID-19 prevention. It also outlines the rights they are entitled to as workers in the company.
New employee safety orientation is the process of introducing new, inexperienced, and/or transferred workers to your organization, their supervisors, co-workers, work areas, jobs, and especially the health and safety requirements of their work environment. All new employees working for your company should be required to attend a new employee safety orientation. This includes all management, staff (full-time, part-time, returning, temporary, and interns), and volunteers. It is also important to consider and develop a method to communicate safety and health hazards and their controls to contractors and other visitors.
A well-planned orientation will provide your new employee with a positive first impression of the company as well as show them that they are a valued member of your organization. While there are many aspects to consider when orienting a new employee to your company, this bulletin will focus primarily on the safety and health discussions that should be considered and communicated.
The following are some important steps to consider prior to a new employee’s first day on the job.
- Develop a safety orientation checklist specific to your organization.
- Designate an experienced employee to lead the orientation.
- Make sure that there is a clean and functional work area ready for the employee.
- Ensure the employee has the proper equipment and supplies.
- Ensure the employee has the necessary information technology resources, including access to programs necessary for performing their job duties.
- Make sure the employee’s supervisor is not scheduled to be off when the new employee arrives, and he or she has plenty of time to meet with the employee.
- Ensure all required documents and forms are prepared.
- Ensure meaningful work is prepared for the first day.
Designate and prepare an appropriate mentor for the new employee to continue the orientation.
When Should Safety Orientation Be Provided?
Safety orientation should be provided after the hiring offer is made and before the employee begins work. The length of time required for safety orientation will depend on each individual workplace and the specific job, tasks, and hazards involved.
Not all training can or should be completed on the first day, and it should not consist of a whirlwind of checklists and safety manuals handed to the new employee. Time the safety orientation sessions to best match the needs of the workplace and the work done, but be sure all areas are covered prior to the employee being exposed to a given hazard.
What Topics Should Be Covered?
The safety orientation should provide guidance, direction, and essential health and safety information to new employees to promote the importance of maintaining a safe environment. It should be practical and hands-on, and it should focus on the skills the employee must develop to be successful and safe at their job. The following are some common topics to discuss during safety orientation:
- Rights and Responsibilities: Explain both the employee and employer responsibilities as outlined in your operations general safety rules and requirements. Specific information may include:
- Reporting accidents
- Reporting unsafe working conditions
- Process for exercising their right to refuse unsafe work
- Safety Programs and Procedures: Explain the company’s safety procedures as they pertain to the employee’s job and department. Outline the expectations for the employee and the employee’s supervisor to adhere to all standards.
- First Aid: Introduce first aid providers, indicate areas for first aid kits or room, and explain to employees how to call for first aid for themselves or for a co-worker.
- Accident/Injury Reporting Procedures: Explain the established company procedure and contact people for reporting any injuries sustained by the employee.
- Emergency Procedures and Preparedness: Review the company’s emergency personnel contact info; evacuation plan, including exit routes; evacuation signals and sirens; location of eyewash stations and showers, fire extinguishers, and alarm pull boxes; identify fire marshal(s); and identify exposures. Other procedures may also include bomb threats/ suspicious packages; threatening, violent, or disruptive behaviors; chemical spills, gas leaks; etc. A walkthrough of the facility highlighting these aspects is also beneficial.
- Personal Protective Equipment (PPE): Review the required PPE for specific jobs or job tasks, including the appropriate use, how to obtain, proper fit, storage, and maintenance.
- Workplace Hazardous Communication: Explain where hazardous materials and substances are located, and review the labeling system, hazardous symbols, and location and contents of the Safety Data Sheets (SDSs).Train employees on site-specific products and accompanying SDS material.
- Hygiene: hygiene is critical at work, so it’s worth reiterating. Explain that it’s company policy to wash your hands before eating, drinking, and using the washroom. For companies building COVID-19 programs into orientation, use this block to reiterate the importance of hand hygiene not only for preventing COVID-19 outbreaks but also for limiting common communicable diseases in general (e.g., limiting the impact of flu season.
- Work Hazards: OSHA requires you to provide workers information and training on hazards that apply to your workplace. Your orientation should include a learning session and a tour of the work area and wider facility to discuss all applicable hazards. Don’t forget to discuss hazard management processes, including reporting, mitigation, and communication. While work hazards are vital, be sure you also include psychosocial hazards, including work-related stress and workplace violence, as required. Arm workers with information to help them navigate these hazards and risks, including any policies and procedures for managing these hazards (e.g., a workplace violence prevention policy).
- Contact Information: Finally, brief every new hire on the correct modes of contact and contact information for their:
- Health and safety team or committee
- Local authorities including poison
Why Should Safety Orientation Be Provided?
Providing a safety orientation and extra assistance and monitoring during the initial period of employment is critical, regardless of the age of the employee, as they are not familiar with the hazards of the job or the workplace. During this phase, each worker develops the knowledge, skills, and abilities that are necessary to work in a safe and healthy manner.
Tools for Building an Effective Safety Orientation Program
The goal of safety orientation is to prepare workers for the hazards they will encounter during their day-to-day life and inform them of their rights. To achieve those objectives, orientation needs to be more than a box-ticking exercise. You need it to be engaging, measurable, and comprehensive. And you want the information to stick.
The design of your orientation program plays a big role in whether and how workers absorb and use this information. And design starts with setting the right goals.
Set Your Strategic Goals
You can’t measure the success of your orientation program if you don’t set a goal. Your goals will come from different stakeholders in the organization, but as a safety manager, your big question is: what is most important from a health and safety perspective and for the organization? Some appropriate goals include:
- Seeing safer behaviors from new employees sooner
- Empowering employees to make the most of the resources
- Helping employees to start thinking in terms of “us” quickly
It’s helpful to make your goals personalized but also to look at the science behind each objective.
For example, studies show that training works better when it focuses on empowering workers rather than trying to change behavior. You may find it easier to alter your goals to meet those objectives. In other words, empowering workers might mean then creating a program that’s less a “do this and not that” seminar and more of an explanation of mechanisms and information to empower safe decision-making right off the bat.
Once you determine your goals, you can then choose methods to measure your success. Your measurement methods will depend on the goal and your resources. These can include surveys and skill testing.
Choose Your Content and Training Methods Carefully
Every orientation must contain specific pieces of content dictated by state and federal law. You must choose whether you want to directly cover OSHA or if you want to incorporate the state and federal OSHA requirements into your own policies, programs, and procedures. (See OSHA Training Requirements for General Industry, Maritime, Construction, Agriculture, Federal Employee Programs.)
As previously discussed, your content will reflect your organization’s policies, regulations, and culture. So while there’s a similar thread running through all health and safety orientation, the details will differ from company to company and even site to site.
FIND YOUR TRAINING DELIVERY TOOLS
Beyond the information provided, it’s up to you to determine how you deliver the training. While online learning has come leaps and bounds in the past ten years, some companies still choose to deliver training in-person in a classroom-style every time. You may also browse methods like presentations, videos, or interactive training depending on your requirements and resources.
To start finding a direction, you may find it useful to review some of the research on effective training methods for your goals and even your industry.
- One study found that using methods like hands-on training and behavioral modeling produced better knowledge acquisition among workers. These methods were also correlated with a drop in accidents and injuries.
- Another study from Taiwan showed that construction workers found both high learning effectiveness and general satisfaction when using e-learning methods.
Other training delivery tools can include:
- group meetings
- self-guided exercises
- video presentations
- reading materials
- guest speakers
- key coworker interviews
Note: You can make the training your own. However, remember your OSHA requirements: you must provide the training in a format the employee can understand (language, literacy, educational level, and vocabulary).
Set the Flow with Pacing and Sequencing
There’s nothing worse than spending three straight days reviewing health and safety regulations. It’s boring for new hires; it’s exhausting for you. And it stops workers from getting out into their new roles.
To make orientation more digestible, it’s better to see health and safety orientation as an ongoing process rather than a big event. You can then pace the training in a way that makes sense for your program while supporting workers along the way.
Do keep in mind that some training must start before employees can start performing their tasks. You can’t ask them to start work or risk exposure to a hazard without the right training. So, you’ll need to knock out work hazards, PPE, and emergency procedures right away.
It’s also helpful to show them safe behaviors for their task prior to letting them out into the field. Everyone wins when workers know the safe way to work from day zero rather than waiting to be corrected.
Ultimately, pacing and sequence will depend on industry and role. A few tips for setting up a schedule include:
- Build-in time to provide a warm welcome. Don’t get straight into the training without first engaging with them.
- Give workers the tools to move around the building and through orientation safely first.
- Set expectations early (company policies and rules).
Provide Evaluation and Feedback
You set goals, so you need to determine whether or not you met them by evaluating the results of your program. Use feedback and evaluation to assess employee readiness and the strength of your program.
Ideally, you’ll provide regular feedback as orientation progresses. You can get qualitative and quantitative feedback from them. Using skill tests will demonstrate things like the effectiveness of your manual handling training.
However, you can also get qualitative data by asking them:
- Do you know what’s expected of you?
- How comfortable do you feel reaching out to coworkers with questions?
- Do you know where to go to problem-solve?
- Are you aware of what resources are available to do your job?
These high-level questions demonstrate both readiness and the quality of your program because more than anything, they identify whether an employee feels self-sufficient or is at least on the road to self-sufficiency. However, they are only indicators. New hires get a truer sense of their preparedness after being out in the field.
Once they start work, you can re-ask these questions or go deeper. You might ask:
- Did you feel prepared for the past few days of work?
- What resources did you feel you needed? What resources were missing?
- Where do you go to find what you need?
use New employee orientation checklist : This checklist is designed to assist supervisors with new employee safety orientation.
IMPORTANT NOTICE – The information and suggestions presented by HSSE WORLD in this Technical Bulletin are for your consideration in your loss prevention efforts. They are not intended to be complete or definitive in identifying all hazards associated with your business, preventing workplace accidents, or complying with any safety related, or other, laws or regulations. You are encouraged to alter them to fit the specific hazards of your business and to have your legal counsel review all of your plans and company policies.
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