6 Steps for Orienting New Workers

Jun 29, 2011

6 Steps for Orienting New WorkersBy the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS)

The first month in a new job can be a risky one, as these workers are five to seven times more likely to be injured than experienced workers. A common misconception about the higher rate of injuries among new workers is that age is a factor. However, it has nothing to do with age. It’s because the worker is new to the job and needs proper orientation and training to be safe and successful. As university, high school and migrant workers flood into Ontario workplaces, take advantage of this timely opportunity to keep them safe.

Claim rates drop sharply as new workers of any age gain experience, and a vital key to gaining experience is employee orientation. All workers, regardless of age, need the same level of orientation to a new job because they are facing possible new hazards or may encounter hazards that have changed or developed.

Orientation sessions normally cover topics such as

  • explanation of the function of the work unit
  • organizational relationships
  • administrative arrangements
  • various policies and rules.

When making a new hire, or when transferring an employee to a new role within the organization, consider the following six steps.

1. Take a look at the job itself. As an employer, even before you hire, assess the job and what it entails. What hazards will the worker be exposed to? Will certain situations present new risks? Are some tasks better reserved for more experienced workers?

2. Before the person starts a new position, provide effective health and safety orientation and training. Content possibilities could include

  • the company’s health and safety policy
  • responsibilities of the employer, supervisor and worker
  • hazards in the workplace.

Workers need to know how to protect themselves starting from day one, who to go to for advice and what to do if things seem unsafe. And always remember workers have three basic rights: to know about hazards, to participate in their organization’s health and safety efforts, and to refuse dangerous work.

Depending on the workers being trained and the content being taught, there are three styles that can be used to ensure orientation information reaches new workers:

  • low engagement, e.g., an oral, written or multimedia presentation of the factual information by an expert source
  • medium engagement that includes the same teaching tools but has a stronger element of interactivity
  • high engagement that applies concepts in a real or simulated environment (hands-on training).

3. Make sure all workers know that no one is to perform any task until they have been trained to do so. Encourage workers to ask questions at any time, especially about safety. Demonstrate more than once.

Training methods can also depend upon the age of the new worker. For young workers (those under the age of 25), training should recognize their relative inexperience and account for the differences in experiences, maturity and developmental level. For example, training could include interaction, instant reward and feedback, self-directed learning, as well as teamwork. Adult worker training, on the other hand, should include more self-direction, as well as encouragement to learn using their various experiences.

All new workers, young and old, will benefit from more practical or classroom training for new situations, procedures that are short and actively and clearly written, and by grouping equipment or tasks that are associated with similar functions.

4. Ensure the employer or supervisor is accessible, especially during orientation and training. Stay close, watch the worker perform the task, and correct any mistakes. The worker may feel pressured to get it right the first time, so you can help by being patient, repeating instructions, and demonstrating procedures as often as necessary.

Workplaces are required to provide hands-on training on the correct use of equipment. When demonstrating how to perform a task, always include

  • safety features and control systems
  • use of personal protective equipment (PPE)
  • how to recognize hazards (including those outside own work area)
  • the right to refuse hazardous work
  • emergency procedures
  • any other necessary topics should also be included in worker orientation.

5. Ensure supervisors and managers monitor their workers. Take into consideration the amount of time allotted for each employee to absorb what they are learning and how to conduct their work safely and correctly. A new employee can absorb only a certain amount of information in the first few days, so provide a handout outlining the points covered in the orientation sessions. It can also serve as a checklist for the person conducting the orientation. A buddy system is also a helpful follow-up to the initial orientation. This allows for on-the-job reinforcement of the information presented to the new employee and promotes the safety awareness of experienced workers who act as "buddies."

6. Soon after the orientation sessions, assess new workers on their understanding of the items discussed. Use this opportunity to also evaluate the quality of training. Review and retrain where necessary. Be prepared to respond to procedural questions, such as “Can you show me that again?” or “Why is this control necessary?”

In summary, while experience can only be gained through time, both health and safety education and job skills training can help to reduce the risk of injury among inexperienced workers.

Anyone supervising workers must have the knowledge, training or experience to organize work and its performance. Be sure new workers are closely supervised, and adhere to recognized and safe work procedures. Know the laws and regulations that apply to keeping workers safe on the job, and know what is hazardous in your workplace.

Based on “Best Practices for New Worker Orientation and Training,” a session presented by CCOHS at Health & Safety Ontario’s recent Partners in Prevention conference and trade show in Mississauga, as well as in a CCOHS webinar. See below for a link to the webinar.

How we can help

Visit the Vulnerable Workers topic page for additional information and resources.