Safety Leader

Get With the Program

Image source/ Michael Johnston
Image source/ Michael Johnston

When employees come on board, they will likely be unfamiliar with their new surroundings and work environments. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration Office of Statistics, 40% of employees injured at work had been on the job less than a year. Therefore, it is imperative that new employees—permanent, part-time, temporary and volunteers—receive basic safety training on any hazards they may encounter.

Employers should have a written safety orientation and training program in place for all new employees. An effective program provides adequate basic safety training for workers to perform assigned duties safely. It's the employers' responsibility to make sure that relevant training is scheduled, completed and documented. This is often a coordinated effort by several entities within a company, but ultimately, the direct supervisor must make sure the employees know the job and safety precautions before allowing them to complete a task.

New employees should be familiar with written safety programs, such as lockout/tagout, hazardous materials, fall protection and ladder safety, to name a few. Of course, common sense should be practiced at all times.

All workers should be encouraged to practice good housekeeping. Employees should keep their workspaces tidy, keep objects out of walkways and center aisles, and clean up spills or leaks immediately to prevent slips, trips and falls.

Employers must take every precaution to provide a safe work environment. The supervisor and company safety officer must conduct regular inspections of the workplace and host regular safety meetings. Additionally, management should regularly make improvements to all written safety programs. Employers must enforce their safety policies and hold employees accountable for willful or habitual protocol violations. 

Prior to a new worker being assigned any task, a job briefing should be performed. The supervisor should walk the employee through the procedure or task at hand and address any safety concerns and confirm required personal protective equipment is available, worn and used as intended. Then all parties need to sign off that they understand the job, associated hazards and their obligations and responsibilities. 

It is important that employees know how to report any injury, near-miss or incident that occurs at work to a supervisor, regardless how minor it may be. And workers need to be aware that reporting incidents will not result in retaliation from the employer. Smaller injuries may become more serious as a result of not being addressed properly when they originally occurred. 

New employees need to be educated on how to identify and correct hazards and how to conduct a job-safety assessment. Workers should always immediately report any observed unsafe conditions or hazards that they are unequipped to correct, such as exposed wiring, broken tools, loose guardrails or handrails, or poorly lit work areas. 

In addition to basic safety orientation and training programs, employers should require all new employees to complete some form of the voluntary OSHA Outreach Training Program. Outreach training comes in the form of 10-hour and 30-hour courses and educate workers on job hazards, promote workplace safety and health, and inform workers of their rights. 

Some jurisdictions and employers demand OSHA Outreach Training. States that require some form of the training include Connecticut, Florida, Massachusetts, Missouri, Nevada, New Hampshire, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and West Virginia. Whether or not workers are obligated to complete the training, the 10-hour course is recommended for all workers in construction and the 30-hour course is recommended for all supervisors.

More specific to electrical line work, the Electrical Transmission and Distribution Partnership has an electrical construction industry outreach-training course. Topics include an introduction to OSHA, electrical safety, safe grounding practices, personal protective equipment, job briefings, confined and enclosed spaces, lifting and rigging, excavations, and fall protection. It should be required for new employees involved with the construction and maintenance of power transmission and distribution systems.

Finally, employers should familiarize all new hires with company conduct and behavioral policies. This may include expectations regarding smoking and tobacco use on the job, drug and alcohol use, discrimination and anti-harassment, workplace violence prevention, property damage and even social-media usage.

About the Author

Tom O'Connor

Safety Columnist

Tom O'Connor is safety and regulatory affairs manager for Intec, a safety consulting, training and publishing firm that offers on-site assistance and produces manuals, training videos and software for contractors. Reach him at toconnor@intecweb.com.

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