Special Topics in Safety Management

New Hire Safety Orientation: Start Them Out on the Safe Foot!

New hires are injured at work far in excess of their proportion to the workforce. This article explains why … and how to encourage safe-mindedness from Day One on the job.

“If your idea of orienting a new employee is to quickly introduce him around and show him the bathroom and the coffee room, you need to reorient yourself.”

So says safety training expert Dave Duncan. Duncan’s plea for better new employee orientation is backed by statistics, especially where safety is concerned.

New employees, notes Duncan, are five times more likely to suffer a lost-time injury on the job within the first month than are those more experienced. And other statistics, quoted on BLR’s safety website, Safety.BLR.com, add that 40 percent of all workers injured on the job have been doing it less than a year.

Such injury rates lead to the question of why “newbies” are so vulnerable, and more important, what your company can do about it.

Ignorance and Fear

The first question—why it happens—is easy to answer, according to BLR’s special report, 7 Stupid Reasons New Employees Get Injured and How to Avoid These Mistakes. The high injury rates are caused by a combination of lack of knowledge and fear.

Trainees learn more when you use both sight and sound to teach them. BLR’s Audio Click ‘n Train: New Employee Safety Orientation has both. Click for information.

The lack of knowledge is not only on the workers’ part.

Sure, they’re unfamiliar with the tools, conditions, and most important, safety hazards, of their new environment. But it extends to employers, too. “Employers assume that new employees know more than they really do,” says the BLR report. “Certain jobs require precautions that may seem like common sense to someone who has spent years on the job.” But to a newcomer, “these are brand new hazards never even thought about,” the report continues.

The fear comes in a newcomer’s refusing to ask questions, lest he or she seem incapable of doing the job, which could lead to an early termination. But questions not only fill the newcomer’s need for knowledge they also expand the instructor’s ability to deliver that knowledge, says BLR. “Students’ questions often remind [the instructor] of things he or she didn’t explain fully, or forgot to mention at all.”

Supervisors need to remind new workers again and again that questions are welcome at any time,” stresses BLR. “The more questions, the better. Everyone will learn more.”

Talk Safety While You Walk

The question of how to properly acclimate new hires to workplace safety starts with a question of when. This is addressed by the website, BusinessKnowledgeSource.com.

“During orientation is a perfect place to introduce safety training to a new hire,” says BusinessKnowledgeSource. “Included in the new hire packet should be a company safety policy covering generic safety concerns and resources for additional information so the employee feels comfortable addressing specific issues if necessary.”

Let BLR’s Audio Click ‘n Train: New Employee Safety Orientation make that all-important first safety talk even more memorable. Click to learn more.

The site then goes on to recommend that your walk-through of the facility incorporate safety information.

While you’re showing your new workers the lay of the land as far as their jobs go, also point out the safety elements you’ve built in, such as the location of fire exits and extinguishers, first-aid kits, eyewash stations, and MSDSs.

Also point out less obvious safety features … such as how wide you’ve made walkways so forklifts can safely traverse the area. Help employees to make the connection to how they can keep things safe, advise the site’s authors, by keeping those pathways clean and clear.

While you’re imparting safety knowledge, says the site, you’re having a secondary, but also important effect. Your attention is making the newcomer feel “valued and informed,” and that will lead to a more engaged and productive employee.

The site has a further recommendation: Formal safety training for new hires.

We’ll tell you what that should include, and introduce you to a BLR tool for providing it, in the next Safety Daily Advisor.