New workers are three times more likely to suffer a lost-time injury during their first month on the job, than at any other time. Workplace health and safety is an important factor to consider when hiring new employees. Here are some tips to proactively protect your new employee’s health and safety during the most high-risk time on the job.
Employers are ultimately responsible for the health and safety of their employees. It is the duty of employers to assess the risks of the job and ensure the proper measures, controls, and procedures are in place to prevent occupational illness or injury. New workers are particularly at risk to themselves and others because:
They may not know their rights;
They may lack the experience and training to recognize hazards;
They may not be adequately supervised
They may not have received adequate orientation
Knowing Their Rights
In Canada, all employees have certain rights in the workplace such as the right to a safe workplace. Within this right, it is the employer’s obligation to not only ensure the employee has a safe workplace, but to ensure they clearly understand their rights and responsibilities. One way to do this, and to provide the necessary documentation for the employer to demonstrate their due diligence, is to have all new hires complete the Worker Health and Safety Awareness Training and the Supervisor Health and Safety Awareness Training, when applicable.
In Ontario, these courses are mandatory for all employees, volunteers, and supervisor. They are available online for free. Check your jurisdiction’s occupational health and safety regulator for your details.
Experience and Training to Recognize Hazards
The first few weeks in a new job are full of new information and changes the new employee is expected to learn. Whether the new employee has been in the workforce for years or is just entering, being in a new environment and position inherently means there are new hazards the employee may not be familiar with. It is critical for new employees to be made aware of the actual and potential hazards of the workplace regularly for the first few weeks of their employment.
Integrating an employee into the organization and new position is a long-term and gradual process that requires regular communication and feedback from a competent employee. According to Occupational Health and Safety legislation, employers are responsible for appointing competent supervisors. While the employer is ultimately responsible for all employee health and safety, supervisors are second only to employers in terms of their legal duties to protect workers from harm. In order to be considered “competent” the supervisor must be:
qualified because of knowledge, training, and experience to organize the work and its performance;
familiar with the Act and its regulations; and
knowledgeable about any potential or actual danger to health or safety in the workplace.
Having well-trained supervisors will help create a positive and safe work culture, decrease lost time, medical and disability costs, and help protect the organization from corporate liability, prosecution and fines for failing to protect workers (which can include individual fines of $100,000 and/or 12 months in jail, or corporation fines up to $1.5 million).
Orientation is that first step to the onboarding process where the employee receives all the necessary training on policies and procedures of the organization before getting started on the job. This is the opportunity for employers to complete all mandatory health and safety training required for the job. According to Occupational Health and Safety legislation, before an employee can begin work, they must receive training on how to do the job safely, be provided with necessary resources and, depending on the job, are legally required to complete certain training. Further, employers must identify the hazards on the job and communicate those hazards and the controls in place to all employees.
Starting off the employment relationship with a health and safety focus has the potential to save your organization money, build trust, increase employee well-being, and enhance the safety culture.
Your HR business partner, or services like our Orientation and Onboarding Checklist, can help you optimize your individual Orientation and Onboarding Program.
For professional HR advice that you can trust, contact us today!
Lisa Isaac HR Professional Services
From the LIHR team and lead collaborator, Justine Perdeaux, HR Advisor Justine@LisaIsaacHR.com