First Rule of Safety: Knowing Your Job
Yesterday’s post discussed safety orientation for new employees. Today, we continue the theme, focusing on job-specific information new employees need to learn.
Knowing how to perform a job properly includes knowing how to do it safely. To protect themselves and their co-workers, new employees have to get to know their jobs inside out.
In fact, OSHA requires it. The General Duty Clause says that employeesmust “comply with occupational safety and health standards” and all OSHA rules and regulations that apply to their “own actions and conduct.”
In order to meet OSHA’s mandate, new employees have to learn the rules and the specific requirements for doing a good, safe job. Even if they have experience doing a certain kind of job somewhere else, they may not know how to do the job your way.
Orientation begins the training process that eventually creates safe, competent workers. But orientation is only the first step. Ongoing safety training has to do the rest.
Effective, consistent training develops good safety attitudes, builds expert knowledge about the job and its hazards, and teaches the precautions that must be taken to prevent accidents and injuries.
Lots to Know, Lots to Learn
Developing safe workers is all about knowledge. And knowledge begins with learning the basics.
To know their jobs and work safely, new employees must learn essentials such as:
- How to operate machines and equipment correctly and safely
- How to select and use materials, including chemicals, correctly and safely
- How to use protective devices, equipment, and controls such as machine guards, personal protective equipment (PPE), and ventilation
- How to perform routine work area safety inspections
- How to perform each step in a task in the proper order
- How to report safety problems and hazards
- What to do if something goes wrong
Of course, your new workers must also be made aware of all the possible dangers, including:
- Types of accidents that could occur on the job
- Hazards present in the work area, especially hidden hazards
- Hazardous materials in the workplace
- Health risks
- Consequences of inattention, fooling around, and careless acts
New employees also have to be warned to be on the lookout for potential risks, such as:
- Slip, trip, and fall hazards
- Electrical problems
- Chemical leaks or spills
- Ergonomic hazards
- Machine and equipment malfunctions
- Fire hazards * Anything that just doesn’t “seem right”
Old Hands, New Work
In those instances where a new employee is familiar with the work and any inherent dangers associated with it, the challenge will be a bit different. Instead of learning safe approaches, they will be re-learning that information as it applies to your workplace. In some cases, this may be more difficult than training someone who does not have previous experience since there are most likely bad habits to unlearn. There are also likely to be assumptions made that the same practices that worked in the previous environment are equally valid in the new one.
This situation is not all bad- in fact, it can help strengthen your own program. If the employee mentions “that’s not the way we did it at my last job”, that is an opportunity for you to learn as well. How was it done there? Is it a better way to do it? Can that information be used to update or modify your practices? If a particular procedure or policy would not work, explain to the employee why it wouldn’t- that will speed their understanding and encourage compliance.