Orientation: A healthy start to training

The first few days on the job are a daunting prospect for a new hire. Employees are excited and nervous about a fresh start and health and safety is the last thing on their minds.

But HR needs to ensure health and safety makes it to the top of the list because the initial period of employment is critical. During this phase, workers develop the knowledge, skills, attitudes and abilities to work successfully. Many workers are killed or injured every year because they don’t know about workplace hazards.

While every staff member is a potential victim, particular attention should be paid to workers who are:

•transferred to jobs or work areas they are unfamiliar with;

•returning from an extended period away from work; and

•who are new to the workforce.

It’s imperative to have a systematic method to ensure every orientation provides the right material at the right time.

HR needs to ensure new employees don’t suffer from information overload. Instead of covering everything at once, spread the orientation over several days or a week or two. Give information in small chunks, making points brief and easy to understand. Many organizations use the “buddy-system” in health and safety orientation. Hooking up new employees with existing staff gives them the opportunity to ask questions and pick-up safety conscious attitudes and work practices.

The first day. When the employee starts working for the organization or begins a new job there are a number of steps that can be taken. The first thing to do is to give general health and safety information about the business, products and services and the job. Employers must provide the appropriate health and safety information required by legislation. It’s a good idea to make it clear to workers that there aren’t any stupid questions and HR is always around if the employee is unclear about health and safety practices.

The first couple of weeks. Once the worker has settled in to the new role, HR can arrange training that will cover the job description, health and safety performance expectations and safety requirements for the use of any equipment. Now is the time to facilitate general training the worker will need to act safely in the workplace. For example, arrange for the worker to receive general workplace hazardous materials information systems (WHMIS) training.

The employer should supervise new staff closely in this period to ensure understanding, correct unsafe activities and reinforce safe work practices. Keep in mind new workers require more supervision.

Ongoing. After the training is finished, monitor performance to ensure work is being done safely. Update workplace orientation and training as conditions change and conduct refresher courses for all employees.

When new or inexperienced workers see an unsafe condition, they should be encouraged to take the following steps:

•control the hazard if the worker has the authority, training and experience to do so;

•if the worker can’t control the hazard, report it to the supervisor for corrective action;

•if the problem is not corrected, contact the occupational health and safety committee or worker health and safety representative.

Orientation checklist

Here is a partial list employers might want to ensure is covered during training.

Fire and other emergencies: types of fire and emergency plans in the organization; location of stairwells to be used for evacuation; location of fire hoses and extinguishers; name of local fire marshal; and what to do if there is a fire or emergency, including evacuation procedures.

First aid: where first aid kits and logs are located in the work area; names of those with first aid training; procedure for using first aid supplies and entering information in the first aid log; procedures for reporting accidents and “near misses”; and how to access emergency facilities.

Harassment policy: define harassment; review policy requirements and provide a copy of policy; and discuss how to deal with harassment complaints and who to contact.

Computer policy: conditions for using the organization’s computers; hazards of computer use (such as how repetitive strain injuries are caused, how to recognize symptoms and how to report an RSI); eye strain; and how to set up a computer work station correctly and where to go for help.

Work refusal: the worker’s right to know, participate and refuse, including procedures for filing a refusal to work.

Keep in mind that legislation varies from province to province, so it’s a good idea to check the legislation in the area the company is operating in. Federally regulated employers are governed by the Canada Labour Code.

Source: Government of Saskatchewan

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