Reduce Incident Rates with Better New Hire Safety Orientations

The more in-depth the orientation, the better.

Want to slash your company’s TRIR (total recordable incident rate) and DART (days away, restricted or transferred) scores in half? Beef up your new hire safety orientation program — and get executives from the C-suite involved.

According to the 2019 Safety Performance Report from Associated Builders and Contractors, companies that conduct in-depth indoctrination of new employees into their safety culture, systems and processes have incident rates that are nearly 50 percent lower than those of companies that cover only basic safety and health compliance topics.

Having the CEO or other senior leaders provide that introduction is key, according to the report’s findings.

When it comes to safety orientation for new hires, longer is better. The report looked at the TRIR scores of companies that participate in ABC’s STEP (Safety Training Evaluation Process) program. It found that the STEP Diamond companies that provide more than 200 minutes of new hire safety orientation improve their TRIR scores by 85 percent on average.

Wondering what you might cover in 3½ hours of safety orientation? Effective safety orientation programs include:

  • An introduction by top-level management to the company’s safety commitment, expectations and responsibilities. Having the CEO, vice president and other C-suite executives involved at this stage emphasizes that safety is one of the company’s core values.
  • A discussion of workplace safety rules specific to each site and its hazards. This should include a review of how safety incidents can be prevented by eliminating or controlling each hazard.
  • A review of the company’s hazard, injury and emergency communication and reporting procedures. For example, new employees should know how their supervisors will alert them to potential hazards each day, and how they will be alerted if they need to evacuate. They should know how to report safety concerns (is there an anonymous hotline they can call if they’re worried about losing their job?), how to get assistance if someone is injured, and where the first aid supplies and hazardous chemical information sheets are kept. Is there a stop-work authority policy that allows — even requires — employees to stop work if they believe a task presents a danger to themselves or others on the job?
  • Demonstrations of protective gear and safety skills. Even new hires with previous experience may not be familiar with the latest safety gear and the right way to use it. Or they could have been using the gear wrong in the past. Show them the right way. Also demonstrate relevant safety skills. Instead of talking about the correct way to use certain power tools, for example, show how.
  • Explanations of performance evaluation and record keeping. New employees need to understand that their adherence to the company’s safety rules will play a big role in their performance evaluations. Let them know what criteria you’ll use.
  • Assign them a safety mentor. To guide new employees through their first days on the job and any probationary period, assign them a safety mentor. The mentor can review with the mentee site-specific job hazards and opportunities to reduce them, monitor the new hire’s safety performance and step in and correct unsafe behaviors as necessary.

A hands-on, in-depth safety orientation program will take up more of your new hire’s time initially. But as the ABC report shows, it should pay off in the long run with fewer safety incidents and less time and money lost to them.

Freelance writer Mary Lou Jay writes about business and technical developments in a variety of industries. She has been covering residential and commercial construction for more than 25 years.

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