Ready to work: Prepare for young recruits
Ensure comprehensive orientation and training are in place.
While young workers are thinking about starting new summer jobs and others are re-joining the workforce, manufacturers should be aware this “newness” to the world of work could be hazardous to new or returning employees’ health.
Research from the Institute for Work and Health (IWH) reveals the risk of a lost-time injury is more than three times greater for new workers with more than a year’s experience on the job. In 2017, there were 31,441 accepted lost time claims by young workers (aged 15-24) in Canada and 23 died from work-related injuries or illnesses, according to the Association of Workers’ Compensation Boards of Canada (AWCBC).
Employers are responsible for creating and fostering a safe and healthy work environment while protecting everyone’s health and safety.
Ensure a comprehensive orientation program is in place with roles and responsibilities immediately communicated to new hires. This sets the tone for the workplace and ensures that workers are starting on safe footing.
New workers are different from young workers – they aren’t necessarily entering the workforce for the first time. They could be returning to work after an absence such as maternity leave or an injury, and it’s possible conditions and procedures have changed since they were last on the job. Or they could be working for the same company, but in a new role or at a new location and facing new hazards for which they’re not prepared or adequately trained. These workers should also undergo the orientation program and have an opportunity to review and discuss their return to work, ask questions and receive appropriate training.
All workers need to know their rights, which include knowing what hazards are present and how to protect themselves, the right to participate in keeping their workplace healthy and safe, and a right to report unsafe conditions and practices. They also have the right to refuse dangerous or unsafe work, making sure to follow specific procedures when doing so.
Timely and effective training is essential when starting a new job. The IWH study showed just one in five workers in Canada received safety training in their first year with a new employer. Learning on the job or waiting several months for a classroom course are not good options. Effective training methods include:
Hands-on or simulation training (before starting the actual work).
Mentoring by experienced workers.
Clear and concise written procedures.
Practice time and an opportunity to ask questions and obtain feedback.
Programs written in an active voice with clear instructions.
Grouping equipment or tasks with similar functions.
Here are some suggestions for employers that will help create a healthy and safe work environment:
Be a safety leader and walk the talk.
Develop a comprehensive health and safety program.
Work with your health and safety representative and/or committee to identify and control hazards.
Assign suitable work. Avoid assigning jobs to inexperienced workers that involve long training times, a great deal of responsibility, critical or risky tasks, or working alone.
Instruct workers not to perform any task until they have been properly trained.
Provide detailed training on equipment, safety features and control systems.
Communicate with the worker about the job tasks clearly and frequently, repeating and confirming training over the first few weeks of work.
Encourage workers to think in a safety-minded way about all of their work, and ask someone if they don’t know or are unsure about something.
Train workers on what do in case of fire, injury or other emergency.
Encourage workers to always ask a supervisor to go over any procedures or practices until they feel comfortable proceeding, and seek feedback to make sure they’re performing tasks correctly.
Workers should also be properly fitted with personal protective equipment (PPE) and shown how to wear it, clean it and store it properly.
And stress the importance of immediately reporting accidents or unsafe conditions to a supervisor.
Young and other new people, as well as those who are retraining or returning from an absence, must be properly prepared for the job at hand. Workers, parents and employers all have a role to play ensuring everyone is on safe footing.
The Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS) in Hamilton contributed this article. CCOHS provides information, training, education, management systems and solutions that support health and safety programs and the prevention of injury and illness in the workplace. Visit www.ccohs.ca.
This article was published in PLANT Magazine’s May-June 2019 print issue.