Back to Basics is a weekly feature that highlights important but possibly overlooked information that any EHS professional should know. This week, we look at onboarding new employees and the required safety training.
As summer begins and new employees enter the workforce, it is important that employers take a look at their onboarding processes and safety training requirements. Along with general company knowledge and an explanation of their role and assigned duties, it is crucial that new workers know the policies and procedures that will keep them safe at work.
The first few days on the job are when supervisors, safety officers, or experienced employees must convey essential safety information and deliver a proper orientation to the new workers. During this time, supervisors must review the following with the new employee:
- The message about the organization’s commitment to safety
- Accident prevention programs
- Hazard reporting procedures
- PPE selection, use, and inspection requirements
- Safety signage and other safety information
- Job-related safety policies, rules, and procedures
- Upcoming training and training schedules
The supervisor must also be ready to answer any questions that the new hire might have about safety regarding their position. The importance a supervisor gives to safety during orientation will communicate a lot to the new employee about the value of safety in their workplace.
New worker stress
New workers, especially young people, might find it stressful to start a new job while lacking long-term ties and relationships with their boss and co-workers, according to OSHA. In hybrid workspaces, new workers might not receive adequate in-person training and mentoring, which might lead to confusion about job duties and expectations, and leave them unsure of where to go for support.
OSHA suggests inviting new employees to meet with leadership. CEOs, presidents, and other organizational leaders might consider scheduling “Getting to Know You” meetings periodically to meet with new employees. This opens up the opportunity to get to know their backgrounds and allows the new workers to ask any questions they might have about the company.
Workers normally rely on various informal channels to learn about an organization’s operations, along with formal training. They can learn by observing other workers, dropping by offices to ask questions, or remembering tips they hear during lunchtime or during “water cooler” discussions.
Due to this, OSHA recommends that companies enhance their orientation and onboarding programs, and establish a virtual onboarding program to pull new workers together regularly. This allows supervisors to deliver information about operational practices regularly and to create a supportive network where new employees can open talk about their onboarding questions.
A virtual onboarding program can also serve as a platform for planned presentations from leadership, expanding on the business’s goals and objectives, and for helping workers understand their role in the organization’s success.
A comprehensive workplace safety program must include training, and OSHA provides guidelines on how to effectively train workers, including new employees. One of the most important factors that contributes to successful training is ensuring that the training facilitator exhibits safety and health expertise, sound instructional skills, and flexibility. In effective training, new employees should learn how to do the following:
- Identify the safety and health problems at their workplace
- Analyze the causes and of the safety and health problems
- Bring about safer, healthier workplaces
- Involve their coworkers in accomplishing these goals
There are four characteristics that OSHA says sound training programs have in common:
- Training must be accurate, the materials should be prepared by qualified individuals and updated as needed. Training should be facilitated by appropriately qualified and experienced individuals using the proper techniques and methods.
- Training facilitators must be credible, they should have a general safety and health background or be a subject matter expert in a safety or health-related field. Facilitators should also have experience training adults or experience working with the target population. Practical experience as well as training experience also makes facilitators more credible.
- Training programs must be clear and understandable to the participants, as well as accurate and believable. The materials must be understandable to more than just college-educated employees and those who understand the jargon, they must be written in the language and grammar of the everyday speech of the participants. Training developers must ensure that readability and language choices are accessible by the intended audience, and if an employee does not speak or understand English, they must be provided instruction in the language they speak and understand.
- Lastly, training programs must be practical, and present information, ideas, and skills that participants see as directly useful in their working lives. OSHA says the successful transfer of learning occurs when the participant can see how the information presented in a training session can be applied to their workplace.
To learn more about OSHA’s recommendations for training employees and new workers, click here.