New Hire Safety Orientation: Best Foot Forward!
Many organizations are finding that new-hire safety orientation provides a prime opportunity to put their best foot forward while conveying to workers the commitment to safety. In those first days or hours on the job, it’s important to let them know you care–and to let them know what you expect in return.
Anyone who’s had to stand up in front of a room of new employees and try to keep their attention while discussing chemical hazards or eyewash procedures knows that more than good content is required. You need to understand your audience, attract and keep their attention, and impress them with yourself and your message. It’s no easy task, but it’s definitely doable.
Tricks of the Trade
One such expert is human resources consultant Judith Brown. She suggests a list of questions for anyone creating or improving an orientation program. Several of the questions she recommends have applicability to safety. Among them:
- What do new employees need to know about the work environment that would make them more comfortable?
- What impression and impact do you want to make on an employee’s first day?
- What key policies and procedures must employees be aware of on the first day to avoid mistakes on the second day?
- What positive experience can you provide that the new employee would discuss with his or her family at the end of the first day of work?
Brown also offers the following recommendations for putting one’s best (and safest) foot forward during those first impressionable days on the job:
- Begin the onboarding process before the person starts work. Send an advance agenda so the employee knows what to expect during orientation.
- Ask a mentor or buddy to show the new hire around, make introductions, and begin some training.
- Have some fun. Don’t stick strictly to the manual. Consider a game such as “photo match” following an introductory plant tour. Each employee is provided photos of new colleagues and a list of names. The object is to match the name with the face.
- Take the new employee to lunch, or ask a buddy or supervisor to join him or her in the lunch room.
- Ask for feedback. Learn how recent new hires are responding to the orientation process and make changes based on those recommendations.
Advises Brown: “The end of the first day, the end of the first week, the end of each day in your employment, is just as important as the beginning. Help your employees feel that you want them to come back the next day, and the next, and the next.”
Rich Grandzol, who consults with companies in the pharmaceutical, biotech, construction, and other industries, says management sometimes fails to imprint on new workers the value of safety and the consequences of incidents. He encourages clients to stress that safety, quality, and productivity are all equally important to the business. Making sure new workers understand the economic impact of accidents, as well as the personal toll they take, is key.
Grandzol, like many other experts, believes there’s a place in new-hire orientation for computer-based training. “We’ll take each of the elements of a company’s own prevention program, such as housekeeping/inspections, PPE, emergency action plans, and safety meetings, and put together a short slide presentation on each.” It’s an easy way for employees to go through modules on their own, and Grandzol emphasizes that this should be done during the first week on the job.
He builds in activities and testing to ensure that the messages have hit their mark. Supervisors track that the testing has been done, and determine where extra help is needed. Also, if the modules are on a network, they become a resource for all employees, who can return to them as needed. This is a good adjunct to a live introductory session in which new workers hear general messages including safety philosophy and policy.
The module approach is time- and cost-effective and conveys information well, Grandzol says. Tomorrow we’ll look at suggested content for your new-hire orientation safety training sessions.
- Safety Orientation: Best Practices (safetygator.wordpress.com)
- The 10 Commandments of Employee Onboarding (govigseniorcare.wordpress.com)
- What Do Your Employees Think About Safety? (safetygator.wordpress.com)
- What’s The First Thing Your New Employees Hear? (customerthink.com)
- Onboarding Programs Need More Focus on Job Expectations and Team Building, Finds TEKsystems (virtual-strategy.com)