Boosting New Worker Safety Reduces Injuries, Cuts Medical Costs

01 May 2019

New workers are most at risk on a job site—at least that’s what the latest safety research indicates. For example, the Canadian Center for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS) says that workers of any age are 5 to 7 times more likely to get hurt during their first month on the job, compared to any other members of your workforce. CCOHS also says that the risk of lost-time injuries is highest among new workers over 45 years of age.  

The high risk of injury to new workers is always present, regardless of your industry. In the construction and extraction industries, 34.9% of worker injuries and illnesses in 2013 occurred during their first year on the job. In agriculture, fishing, and forestry, 45.4% of the injuries and illnesses in 2013 occurred among workers with less than one year experience.

Unfortunately, you can’t eliminate the risk of injury in new workers, but you can still take action to reduce the number of on-site injuries dramatically and save hundreds of thousands in medical costs. Luckily, the work involved won’t cost you a lot to implement.  Below we review some of the most successful strategies you can use to dramatically reduce risk to new workers, boost employee productivity, and increase corporate profitability.

Below are some steps that can be taken to reduce new worker injuries on your job site, as mentioned in this CCOHS infographic:

Training reduces risk dramatically

Safety training is essential. There’s no getting around it. In fact, training is probably the single most effective way to prevent new worker injuries on today’s worksites. Safety training must still be timely to be effective. Waiting several months for classroom training to take place, isn’t timely or effective. Instead, you’ll want to train new workers during new hire orientation at the start of their employment.

But training employees during orientation can be a challenge. Using an onboarding software solution, like GoContractor’s, streamlines and simplifies safety training. This approach not only helps reduce the risk of illness or injury in new workers but also boost worker retention and engagement. According the HSE and professional guidelines, this initial training should be followed by refresher courses, at least once a year.

Develop a health and safety program

While training new workers is essential, this is not always enough by itself. To make a real reduction in injury, you need to do more—much more. This means developing a comprehensive health and safety program with clear, measurable goals. You also need to get senior management buy-in. Without their help, your program is likely to flop.

Allow workers to participate in workplace safety

Employers need to allow employees to participate in making the workplace safer. Opening up communication channels between workers and management on safety issues is the first step. You also need to find out what safety issues exist at the worksite and eliminate them, showing that safety is your top priority. Near miss reporting also helps improve safety on site and involves all workers in the safety process.

Assign suitable work

Assign new workers to jobs suitable for their skills. For example, assigning new workers to high-risk tasks or those that they must do alone is asking for trouble. Also, be direct with employees. Make it clear right from the start that they can only perform specific tasks after they’ve been properly trained. The CCOHS infographic says that just 20% of workers in Canada received safety training during their first year under a new employer. That statistic means some workers may be doing work that is not suitable for their experience.

Communicate effectively with workers

Communicating effectively with workers is the goal of safety training. By repeating job task safety, you can ensure you get the most out of all your employees, reducing the risk of accidents. With GoContractor’s solution you can start the process well in advance of an employee’s first day, customizing any training to their needs. You can also create online paths so that workers complete forms and training relevant to their position in their language choice. This effort boosts comprehension and learning, while reducing injuries, along with costs.

Additional training methods to incorporate, include mentoring by experienced workers; hosting apprentice programs; issuing clear, short, and concise written procedures; and providing worker practice time.

Tell Workers What They Can Do

One strategy often overlooked strategy is telling workers what they can do to boost safety. While this effort on behalf of an employer is unusual, it’s effective. Below are several effective activities that can be used to encourage workers to keep themselves and their colleagues safe—activities culled from CCHOS’s infographic:  

  • Scrutinize potential employers — Workers should scrutinize potential employers regarding health and safety issues, looking for signs that their new employer takes safety seriously and follows the procedures and guidelines suggested. It is important to look for things like the availability of personal protective equipment, on-site safety posters that call attention to problem areas, and so on.
  • Report all accidents and near misses — Remind your workers that they need to report accidents, near misses, and/or unsafe areas, as soon as they notice them. They shouldn’t wait for someone else to do it. Instead, they should go directly to their manager and raise the issue. Also remind them that they can ask other employees and supervisors about existing safety hazards.
  • Ask employees for help reviewing procedures — Ask employees to go over any procedures or practices your guidelines focus on to see if they’re appropriate. Remind them that they can ask their managers to observe as they carry out their jobs and provide them with any advice on safely executing the task, if appropriate.  
  • Ask for safety documentation Remind workers that it’s also their job to look out for their own safety and that they can always ask for copies of any safety rules and procedures. Also, remind them that it’s their job to follow all safety precautions themselves and that providing documentation relating to your health and safety is helpful.

More importantly, you need to remind workers that they should know what to do in case of an emergency—whether it’s a fire alarm, power failure, or other situation.

Hopefully, this review of the CCOHS’s infographic helps your organization implement correct procedures and develop a good safety culture designed to reduce the number of new worker injuries. If you require any further assistance with increasing safety at your site, you can visit CCOHS or use our blog to find other resources.

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Jenny Snook

Jenny Snook is content executive at GoContractor with the job of researching the latest health and safety trends in the heavy industry. Her past-experience includes the research of large museum collections such as the Louth County Museum, many from the industrial age.

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