New employee safety orientation training is critical to the success of your company safety program

We really should have called this article...

“How to cut your workplace safety costs by 40%.”

That’s quite literally how much money can be saved by conducting new employee safety orientation training. In fact, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 40% of all workplace accidents happen to employees who’ve been on the job for less than one year. In another study, it was shown that the highest rate of employee accidents or injuries occurs within the first month of employment - this is just crazy. That is corroborated in the below graphic:

This graphs shows the relation between a workers' time on the job versus their likelihood of having a work related injury or accident

Another study finds that 1 in 8 incidents in the workplace befall employees during their first day. If there’s a better argument for conducting new employee safety orientation training, we don’t know what it is. Not training those new hires in safety best practices is asking for more accidents. Have enough of the boring statistics? The bottom line is that the more you research, the more you will see that new hire safety orientation is absolutely critical to reducing workplace accidents or injuries.

Cost: A Huge Reason to Conduct New Employee Safety Orientation Training

One of the biggest reasons cited by Environmental Health & Safety Managers for not conducting safety training for new hires is cost. The cost of these trainings is seen as prohibitive. Putting an employee in a safety training meeting for a day or two means that much more time when the employee won’t be contributing to the productivity of the company.

Yet cost is really the #1 reason safety training should be conducted for new hires. Look at it this way: the average cost to a company of a single employee injury in medical bills alone is $1,000 (extremely conservative). By contrast, a safety training costs a little more than a day or two of salary. The bottom line is that safety training for new hires actually helps your Company's bottom line.

Why Do New Hires Get Injured More than Other Employees?

According to Business and Legal Reports, new hires are more injury prone for seven key reasons:

1. Employers think common sense will protect new hires.

They make the mistake of assuming new hires know more about safety in the workplace than they actually do. In any new environment, newcomers must be trained to know where all the pitfalls are. Safeguards and precautions that seem like “no-brainers” to established workers are often in a giant blind spot for those new employees. “Second nature” hasn’t yet been burned into their psyche.

2. New employees often won’t ask questions for the fear of “looking dumb.”

Like established workers, new hires can make the dangerous mistake of assuming they should already know all the safety knowledge they will need to do their job securely. Safety training acknowledges that learning is okay in this workplace and even encouraged.

3. New hires don’t know what to do in case of an emergency.

OSHA requires that each business must have an emergency plan and that new employees must be trained to understand it.

4. Training specific to each task gives new employees positive direction.

In that sense, safety training isn’t an add-on to job training. It is job training. In other words, the relevant safety steps and precautions are ideally incorporated in the employee’s day-to-day process. This kind of safety training should focus on the “why” of the process just as much as the “how.” Studies show that employees who know the reasons for the rules are much more likely to follow them.

5. New employees are uninformed about hazardous substances.

Safety orientation training for new hires is crucial to meet OSHA’s requirements for hazard communication, a.k.a. the “right to know” rule. By law, employers must inform employees about the hazards and safe handling of all substances used in their workplace.

6. New employees lack knowledge about the use and purpose of personal protective equipment or PPE.

Employees who know why and how to use their PPE are a lot less likely to have costly accidents. If your workers are going to use PPE on the job, it is YOUR responsibility to ensure they have the proper training on HOW to use that equipment. This is critical to maintain the safety of your employees and to maintain OSHA compliance.

7. Without safety training, new employees get the message that safety isn’t a priority.

Safety training conveys the importance of safety as a part of the new hire’s job. In addition to being a requirement, putting a proper new hire safety orientation training into place for your new hires let's them know that safety is expected at your facility.

How to Conduct Successful New Employee Safety Training Orientation

As important as safety training orientation for new employees is, the good news is, it isn’t rocket science. The first step is to create a list of all the important safety concepts new hires have to understand. Putting a hard copy of this list in each new employee’s hands at the start of the orientation helps them get the most out of their training.

As the training progresses, the trainer or trainers can sign off on each item on the list as they are covered one by one. The checklist should include general info, OSHA topics, emergency exit routes, location and proper use of fire extinguishers, 9-1-1 calls and an emergency action plan.

It’s crucial for the trainer to make sure each new employee feels comfortable with their level of understanding of these topics. Finally, all safety rules must be enforced, because a rule that’s not backed up is about as effective as not having rules to start with. Disciplinary action and following up on infractions is just as important as the initial safety training orientation.

If all of this seems a little daunting, remember that there are excellent resources out there to help. There are some great general safety training orientation videos on the market (hint, hint). While these may not be tailored specifically to your company, they can serve as a great start and jumping off point to build a more site specific safety-training program. Whether you use a video, a PowerPoint, or just your own site safety supervisor training, make sure your new employee safety orientation training is up to date and is completed - without fail.

About the Author

Always a champion of safety, Mr. Hessom is an OSHA and CalOSHA Authorized Outreach Trainer. With more than 20 years of managerial workers' compensation claims experience, his background in claims management and employee safety have helped him create loss prevention and accident prevention initiatives for several S&P 500 companies.