Live Chat
Skip to main content

Keeping Temporary Employees Safe


Image of workers standing in a line a warehouse

One of the greatest gifts you can give is psychological safety and well-being for all employees

If you’re in service, hospitality or any other industry that experiences a surge in business over the holidays, there’s a good chance you’ve hired seasonal staff to help you manage the load. 

Vulnerable workers, classified by the Law Commission of Ontario as women, racialized persons, immigrants, Aboriginal persons, persons with disabilities, older adults, and youth, are often recruited to fill temporary and seasonal needs.

Research shows that this segment of the workforce may be more exposed to injury and illness than other workers because of their lack of experience, reluctance to ask questions, communication barriers and the type of work they do.

[Want more info on keeping vulnerable workers safe? Read: Do all of your employees know how to work safety and feel safe raising concerns]

Temporary staff members provide vital support to your business over the holidays, and while they are only working with you for a short time, they require critical support from you.

In November, WSPS published an article with helpful tips for keeping all employees, including seasonal staff, healthy and safe during the holiday rush. The article highlights that high traffic and demand, a faster pace and greater volume of work, a mix of seasoned and temporary employees and extra inventory are all factors that can increase risks, such as slips, trips, falls, strains, sprains and stress.

On top of these risks, frontline workers are increasingly dealing with challenges that can compromise psychological safety, such as stress, anxiety, fatigue, and angry or agitated customers.

The holidays have always amplified emotions – good and bad – and the events of the past few years have also had an impact on the sense of security and safety that frontline and service industry workers feel in their roles. Sadly, demand for de-escalation training has been on the rise as many have experienced more incidents of aggression, harassment and even violence from customers while on the job.

So what can you do as a leader to make sure all employees, feel psychologically safe and understand how to keep themselves, their co-workers, and your customers safe on the job?

All workers deserve to be protected

All employees should be trained and understand their health and safety rights. Most importantly, they should feel safe to talk to their direct supervisor when they have concerns or hazards arise. 

To ensure this, WSPS suggests you should:

  • Establish procedures and measures for workplace health and safety and ensure they are always followed.
  • Ensure equipment and personal protective equipment are provided and maintained properly.
  • Ensure that all hazards, illnesses, and injuries are reported immediately.
  • Identify workplace hazards and provide training and instruction for handling them.
  • Provide proper and ongoing training.
  • Respond promptly to all health and safety concerns.
  • Lead by example: use and wear safety equipment when required and participate in drills and other emergency response training.

Here are a few more tips to help you keep all employees psychologically safe during the holiday season.

  • Create a safe and inclusive environment through authenticity, openness, action and commitment to continuous improvement, and recognize that you must model the behaviour that you want to see in others.
  • Treat every employee as an individual with unique needs. 
  • Don’t assume employees are fine just because they aren’t telling you anything. Check in with them. Do this for all workers and pay particular attention to vulnerable workers to ensure they feel supported and to build their confidence and competence.
  • Recognize that the pressure of holidays cause employees to feel higher levels of stress – especially if they are new in the role or lack experience. Encourage your team to bring concerns to you. If necessary, allow people to rotate roles throughout the day, and encourage mini-breaks with an approach that work for both you and the team.
  • If you haven’t already built it into your Violence and Harassment Policy, you should consider de-escalation training for the future. Managing tricky situations effectively can reduce the risk of violence, and conversely, mismanaging them can make things worse. To help you get started, WSPS recently shared 5 de-escalation tips when responding to agitated colleagues and customers.

As leaders, we have an opportunity to demonstrate our commitment to health and safety at all levels, including the employees who work with us for short windows of time each year. 


By protecting their health, safety, and wellbeing, we protect our employer brand and increase the chances that they will choose to return when we need them next year.


Get to know the author – Dr. Bill Howatt