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Are Your New Employees at Risk?

Ken Nogan, Strategic Risk Consultant, Learning & Development   |  February 6, 2018

Over 30% of lost-time injuries occur to new employees (tenure of one year or less), according to BLS data. Severity is also an issue. A recent PMA study of large losses revealed over 20% of these losses were sustained by first-year employees.

Statistics like this elevate your need to address safety from day one with new employees. Start by analyzing your claims history, using at least three years of data so you can identify trends. Drill down to see what locations, operations, departments, positions, tasks, and types of incidents reveal about injuries to new employees. This will give you an understanding of the safety, financial, and operating impact of these injuries on your organization—and areas to focus on with your risk control initiatives.

Your safety culture and employee orientation/training are keys to reducing risks for new employees. The following offers some key steps you can take as part of your overall risk control program.

Integrating new employees into your safety culture

Introduce your safety culture from day one to new employees. Start by—and repeatedly—convey to new employees that their safety is your top concern.

  • Maximize your employee orientation process in your safety efforts. Use creative, impactful ways to convey your safety messages.
    • Create a culture where it is "okay" (better) to ask when uncertainty exists.
    • Tell stories about the uniqueness of your safety culture. Include examples that illustrate safety excellence in your organization.
    • Consider sharing some past safety challenges—and what your organization did to solve them. This reinforces that your organization takes safety seriously—and acts on concerns.
  • Consider having more seasoned employees serve as safety coaches and mentors to newcomers.
  • Lead by example. Be sure your managers and supervisors adhere to your standards, such as wearing personal protective equipment. Remember, your new employees are observing them and will likely follow their example.
  • Survey your employees (formally or informally) 30, 60, or 90 days after hire. Ask them to rate your safety orientation and how it measures up with the culture and what improvements they recommend.
  • Use employee safety perception surveys to reinforce the continued importance of safety in your organization.

Safety training for new employees—some best practices

Take the time to review the effectiveness of all your safety orientation efforts. Be sure not to "info dump" new employees in their orientation, as it is easier to retain information that is presented sequentially over time and prioritized.

For example, consider a "general to specific" sequence for new employee safey training:

  1. Safety mission, values, and culture
  2. Policies and programs
  3. Specific work practices and programs (Department Level)
  4. Specific hazard avoidance techniques (Position or Task Level)

The percentage of time you devote to each area may differ, as well as who will serve as the best guides in these areas.

Make sure your safety training resources are current, meaningful, specific, and relatable. You can do this by assessing the following on a department-level basis and updating as needed:

  • Job Hazard Analysis (JHA) for each job for new employees
  • Personal Protective Equipment Assessments
  • Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs)
  • Safety rules and requirements
  • Required industrial hygiene controls
  • Critical hazards lists

Be sure to measure your safety training efforts. Verify that employees have retained the information—can they demonstrate they understand it and act on it correctly? Hold your managers and supervisors accountable for new employees implementing/utilizing what they learned in the training.

Finally, bring a team together with key organizational leaders to help establish organizational accountability for results in this area. This team could review your "first year" injury reports to help lead the quest for better organizational results in this area.

For more information, please view our PMA Risk Control Services and schedule of upcoming Learning Events at PMA's Organizational Safety Institute.

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About the Author

Ken Nogan is a Strategic Risk Consultant at PMA Companies and is responsible for providing risk control services to PMA clients. His primary role, however, is providing leadership and direction to PMA’s Organizational Safety Institute, PMA’s client education outreach.