Knowledge Can Be Your Most Powerful Tool

First day on the new job? Congratulations. Think you know everything there is to know about your new role? Think again. In many cases new, and especially younger workers, don’t have the required training to make their time on the jobsite as safe as it can be. Statistics show that new workers are three to seven times more likely to get injured on the job within the first month of employment than at any other time.

New workers include young workers (14-24 years) as well as those aged 25 and older who have been employed for less than six months, or who have been assigned to a new job. There are thousands of injury claims, lost time and many deaths reported each year due to workplace accidents involving this worker group. Accidents don’t discriminate by industry, and include all operations that may pose potential risk. Luckily most workplace injuries and deaths can be prevented

Why It’s So Important

All workers have a right to a safe and healthy workplace, and it’s the responsibility of both employers and employees to make sure that there is sufficient communication and training in-place.

Without job knowledge and experience, it is far more difficult for new or younger workers to recognize potentially risky situations. Eager to please and unwilling to make waves, they may be hesitant to question the safety of work procedures or to ask for proper safety training and guidelines. They are also not as likely to know their rights or the responsibilities of the employer to provide a safe work environment. Many feel pressured to complete jobs quickly and can be swayed by peer pressure, regardless of the risk involved.

An additional hazard exists in that workers may injure not only themselves, but also those around them. Occupational Health & Safety Act regulations dictate that every employer hiring new or young workers must comply with standardized rules around orientation and training. Compliance isn’t just a good idea, it’s the law.

Employer Responsibilities

Employers are required to provide information, training and supervision for all workers, including new and young workers, on how to protect their health and safety in the workplace. This would include:

  • Having full knowledge, and maintaining compliance of, all required Occupational Health & Safety Act (OHSA) regulations and standards. These should also be posted prominently within the workplace.
  • Creating a formal, company-specific plan and protocol to ensure maintenance of occupational safety and training programs. This should be as comprehensive as possible and include provisions for reporting, record keeping, ongoing education and scheduled reviews.
  • Taking every reasonable precaution for the physical protection of all workers, with a special emphasis on new and younger workers
  • Providing adequate information and direct training on job-specific functions and safety procedures, emergency and evacuation protocol, reporting, first aid availability and OHSA guidelines
  • Ensuring that workers meet the minimum age requirements for specific jobsite functions
  • Providing adequate supervision for new and younger workers, including ongoing feedback on performance and safety standards
  • Ensuring that personnel assigned to provide training are qualified to do so, and possess the necessary experience, maturity and certifications (where applicable)
  • Advising workers of all potential risks associated with the jobs to which they are assigned
  • Providing workers with information and instruction regarding Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) where required

Worker Responsibilities

Although the bulk of the responsibility lies with the employer, all workers, both new and veteran, have an obligation to demand proper training and to report any jobsite safety concerns to their supervisors.

  • If you’re a new hire, ensure that you fully understand what your rights are as far as Occupational Health & Safety Act regulations go. Determine what is required in the way of training and safety standards, and do not start work until you are satisfied that all requirements have been met.
  • Ensure that whoever provides training to you, are themselves trained and qualified to do so
  • Demand complete and comprehensive training on all equipment and materials (including chemicals) that you may use. Be sure to include any new items or situations as your role expands or changes within the organization. Making assumptions or adopting too casual an attitude can lead to mistakes being made and potential injury to yourself or others.
  • Become fully aware of all emergency and evacuation procedures as set out by the company
  • Immediately report any workplace hazards or safety concerns to a supervisor or company management
  • Never cut corners when it comes to safety and always utilize whatever Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) that is required for your job

Training Tips / Best Practices

Here are some specific items that you should consider:

  • For the purposes of training younger workers, it helps to understand their general mindset in order to avoid any safety incidents. Young workers, especially males, are much more likely to take risks and much less likely to ask questions. Knowing this, trainers need to be aware and help offset these trends with specific tactics.
  • Initially, workers should only be given tasks that fall within their level of experience to-date. Immediately throwing someone into a job requiring specific skills (machinery, power tools, vehicles, chemicals etc.) is definitely not the way to go.
  • One of the most commonly neglected aspects of safety is adequate supervision. Workers that are undergoing training should not be left unattended, especially when undertaking dangerous tasks.
  • Before allowing new or young workers to begin their jobs, make sure that they can competently demonstrate what they’ve learned. Provide feedback and correct any unsafe practices immediately.
  • Keep a record of all safety training provided, including evaluations to demonstrate that workers know how to follow the safe work procedures for the specific tasks they were hired to do.
  • Providing online digital training tools (i.e. video) is a great way to help supplement on-site training and to serve as a back-up for ongoing reference and updates
  • Developing your initial safety training program is a good (and necessary) first step. Any procedural policies like this need to be updated on an ongoing basis though. Be sure to establish formal steps for review and updates on a regular schedule and when introducing new equipment or work processes.
  • Aside from direct training, allocating a coach or mentor for new and young workers to oversee their development can be very helpful.

Ultimately, it’s up to employers to ensure that their workplace is healthy and safe and that workers are provided with the information, instruction, and supervision they need to protect themselves against potential hazards. On-boarding and training ‘newbies’ should never be taken for granted.

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