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Kent O'Sullivan: Helping new employees

Thursday, 16 Feb 2006 ( #247 ) - ABBOTSFORD, Canada
Safety First
Kent O'Sullivan is a Certified Master Instructor Trainer with The Columbia Compliance Group. Columbia Compliance Group is a safety consulting firm that specialises in offering professional mobile equipment safety training programs & publications throughout North America.

We have all been a new employee at one time or other. Try to recall all the training you received on your first day of work and how confident you felt afterwards. As an employer, it is not enough to overwhelm a new employee with information in a short period of time and walk away feeling that due diligence has been served. Checks and balances need to be built into the system as well. They include ongoing supervision of new employees on the job.

Training provides a great opportunity to get new employees on board with your safety program, shape their safety attitudes and hone their safety skills and knowledge.

During the orientation period, you have the opportunity to introduce new employees to basic safety information that includes, but is not limited to:
  • General hazards in the work area;
  • Specific hazards involved in each task the employee performs;
  • Hazards associated with other areas of the facility;
  • Company safety policies and work rules;
  • Proper safety practices and procedures to prevent incidents/accidents;
  • The location of emergency equipment, such as fire extinguishers, eyewash stations, and first-aid supplies;
  • Emergency evacuation procedures and routes;
  • Who to talk to about safety questions and problems;
  • What to do if there is an accident or injury;
  • How to report emergencies, accidents, and near misses;
  • How to select, use, and care for personal protective equipment;
  • Safe housekeeping rules;
  • Facility security procedures and systems;
  • How to use tools and equipment safely;
  • Safe lifting techniques and materials-handling procedures; and
  • Safe methods for handling, using or storing hazardous materials and the location of material safety data sheets.
During their first few months on the job, new employees are likely to develop safety behaviour patterns that often last throughout their employment. That is why, as an employer, you need to make good use of valuable training time.
  • Make expectations clear so employees realise, from day one, that safety is a number one job priority, and that safety performance is evaluated along with other aspects of job performance on an ongoing basis.
  • Administer a short pre-test to find out what new employees know - and especially what they do not know - about key safety hazards and practices in your organisation. At the end of the initial orientation period, give a post-test to find out what the new employee has learned and what you need to go over again.
  • Use hands-on demonstrations to make sure your new employees understand the correct procedures completely and can perform them.
  • Provide new workers with a written safety checklist that covers safety rules, procedures, and precautions. Encourage them to post the checklist at their workstation and refer to it as they work.
  • Follow up with new employees on initial safety orientation by monitoring performance closely and asking and answering a lot of questions during those first weeks and months to make sure you've got the safety message across. Spending the necessary time and going the extra mile will go along way in ensuring your workplace enjoys a positive safety culture and an enviable safety record. The most important reason is so employees return safely to their loved ones at the end of the work day.
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