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Is Your New Employee a Safety Risk?

Safe workplaces produce great benefits to include greater staff retention, maximizing productivity, minimizing sick leave, and reducing employee injuries. While there are many strategies to build a safe workplace, some organizations overlook the importance of a strong new employee onboarding program.

Did you know that employees in their first month on the job are at three times the risk for a lost-time injury? Safety and Health Magazine reports one-third of the injuries requiring time away from work happened in the employee’s first year of employment. The greatest risks are in the agriculture, forestry, and fishing industries however new workers who are older and enter into the goods sector, also show a greater risk of injury. With the current trend of more temporary employment and rising turnover in many industries, the safety risks increase. Bob Kelleher, in his article “The Importance of Onboarding New Hires,” states 33% of employees decide to stay or jump ship within the first 30 days of employment. In 2016, 34% of turnover happened in the first year. To add to the safety concern, in a recent survey conducted by Safety and Health Magazine, 80% of workers could not remember receiving any safety training during their orientation process.

While these statistics are scary, many organizations are proactively addressing the risks and have focused on safety training in their new hire onboarding programs. The Work Institute’s Essential Guide to Onboarding Studies defines onboarding as “the process by which new employees acquire the necessary knowledge, skills, and behaviors to become effective, engaged members of their teams, departments, and the organization”. The goals of a strong onboarding program should be to socialize the new hires within the organization, decrease their time to productivity, and encourage retention. The organization should capitalize on the new employee’s desire to follow the safety rules, the ability to bring fresh eyes and identify safety hazards, and share their experience and learning from other organizations.

Organizations that have strong and effective onboarding programs have a few key common elements that can serve as a guide for your organization.

Organizational Investment: Take the time to identify what the new employee needs during the onboarding process and invest in supporting them heavily especially in their first months on the job.

Company Culture: Your culture is your differentiator and should be clear at the beginning of the employee’s experience. Incorporate company values, traditions, and expectations, including your safety expectations, into the process.

Start Early: The onboarding process starts with the interview process as communications with potential employees are providing insight into the culture. Be intentional in pre-employment communications and follow-through by being prepared for the new employee on day one.

Clear Roadmap: The new employee, manager, and the team should have a clear understanding of the onboarding elements, the safety aspects, and how to reinforce the key elements during regular operations.

Pay Attention to What Causes Injuries: Analyze the hazards, risks, and potential injuries and incorporate safety training regarding the risks in the onboarding plan. In addition to teaching employees how to do something, share with them why it is important.

While integrating these key themes, organizations can enhance their onboarding programs by adding gamification, involving managers, clarifying values and goals, and incorporating an understanding of the impact the role has on the organization and ultimately the customer. Be intentional about the onboarding process, involve others from throughout the organization, and reinforce the concepts throughout the employee’s career experience.


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