In advance of the summer hiring season, take a hard look at your training and orientation program, advises Andrew Widdop, WSPS account manager. It's critical that you get it right.
That's because new workers are three times more likely to be injured during their first month on the job. And this summer, many will be on the frontlines dealing with customers, putting them at greater risk of exposure to COVID-19.
New and young workers are a great asset to your business, so make the most of what they have to offer by ensuring your training and orientation addresses their inexperience, how they learn best, their beliefs, and their capabilities. They may have limited health and safety knowledge, lack the confidence to speak up, believe they are immune to harm, or have difficulty focusing and retaining information.
Your training program for these workers should reflect all hazards in the workplace, including COVID-19, and cover risks, control measures, safe work procedures, personal protective equipment, emergency response and more.
Hiring and Training Tips that Work
Andrew outlines five ways to ensure your new and young workers absorb the health and safety information that could help them stay safe this summer.
- Introduce the topic during the hiring process. "Health and safety may not be top of mind for people new to the workforce," says Andrew. "When you post your job ads, or talk to potential hires on the phone, mention health and safety. See if they have any past experience. Have they taken WHMIS or first aid training in school or at previous jobs? What do they know about the risks associated with COVID-19? Try to raise their health and safety awareness early on."
- Emphasize their rights. Young and new workers are often reluctant to ask questions, especially in a tight job market. Provide them with facts and reassurance, says Andrew. Teach them about their right to know, right to participate in health and safety, and right to refuse unsafe work, and legal protection against reprisals. Actively encourage them to ask questions and bring concerns to their supervisor.
- Vary training methods. Young people in particular are receptive to online training, but must be kept engaged, says Andrew. He suggests combining videos, reading, and group exercises. Make the training interactive and grab their attention by using trivia-based games, scavenger hunts, quizzes, polls, etc. Include practical exercises to test learning. For instance, break new hires into groups, have each group review the safety data sheet (SDS) for a particular chemical, and under your supervision, present the information to the entire group. Incorporate cell phones into training where possible. For example, circulate videos on hand washing and disinfecting, have workers complete a mock inspection checklist on their cell phones, and encourage them to download Prevent COVID At Work, WSPS' new mobile app.
- Follow COVID precautions for onsite training, such as physical distancing, hand sanitizing and well-fitting masks. Training in small groups is best (contact your local public health unit for specific guidance on maximum group size). If showing new or young workers how to use a device or machine, have them approach one worker at a time.
- Repeat, repeat, repeat. New and young workers' lives are full of distractions, and young workers' concentration skills may not be fully developed. They may also believe they can't be hurt by a workplace hazard or by COVID-19. Consequently, repeat health and safety messages in different ways, using different tools, to ensure understanding and expectations.
How WSPS can help
- Check out the Young Workers Resource page and New Worker Orientation Guide.
- Listen to Andrew Widdop talk about "Keeping Young Workers Safe and Engaged" on episode 6 of the Small Biz Safety Podcast.
- Ensure your COVID prevention efforts are up to date. Read Find the gaps in your COVID-19 operational planning. This and many other resources are available on the COVID-19 Hub.
The information in this article is accurate as of its publication date.