5 Ways to Keep Your New Employees Injury-Free

Research shows that new hires are more likely to be injured within the first year of employment than workers who have been with the company longer. In fact, the risk is even higher during a new employee’s first month on the job.

Employees show up to their first day at a new job wondering where the coffee station is or how to get their parking validated. They rarely think about whether they’ll be injured on the job or how to avoid it. 

Here’s a statistic you won’t find in most employee orientation packets: Research from Canada’s Institute for Work & Health (IWH) shows that new hires are more likely to be injured within the first year of employment than workers who have been with your company longer. In fact, the risk is even higher during a new employee’s first month on the job. 

We typically think of workplace injuries in the context of higher-risk environments such as manufacturing or industrial settings. However, a significant portion of more than 3 million nonfatal injuries reported to the Bureau of Labor Statistics in 2014 occurred in offices around the country. 

Researchers say new hires may face an increased risk of injury due to a lack of training or job experience, but there may be more to the issue. An increase in temporary employment and greater job turnover has been a big factor.

Though it’s difficult to create a completely injury-free workplace, companies can take several steps to minimize the risk to new and seasoned employees alike. Here’s a five-step plan you can implement right now to keep your new hires safe from their first day on the job to the last. 

1. Deputize company-wide safety ambassadors. Safety isn’t just the responsibility of workers on the front line. A strong safety culture starts at the top and relies on the participation of employees at every level of the organization. It should be a prevalent part of the holistic commitment you make to the well-being of all your workers when they come aboard.

Begin by defining your vision, goals, and how safety fits into your company’s core values. Next, develop a plan to create a company-wide culture of safety and establish a team of safety-minded employees to support and execute it. 

The National Safety Council says employee engagement is critical when creating a culture of safety. “Without active participation by all members of an organization, a safety culture will not evolve and the safety management system will not reach its full potential,” the Council notes. 

2. Make safety your company’s mantra. The orientation process is the ideal time to teach new hires how to protect themselves from injury in the workplace. An effective safety orientation should include information specific to any dangers associated with the job the worker was hired to do. Whether the employee is tasked with working with hazardous chemicals or simply changing ink in the office printer, it’s critical that new hires know how to do their assigned tasks safely, as well as how to mitigate problems that occur.

Be sure to instruct workers about when and how to report injuries and file incident reports. Assure new hires there will be no penalties or repercussions by doing so and reassure them that employee safety is a priority at your company. 

3. Know that OSHA is not just a four-letter word. There are many things new hires can do to protect themselves against job-related injuries, but ultimately employers are responsible for creating a safe workplace. Each work environment has its own unique hazards and, therefore, its own safety requirements. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is your best ally for creating a safe workplace environment for everyone.

OSHA created a searchable online database of OSHA standards to help you determine what your business must do to comply with its guidelines. Compliance is compulsory, so take the time to understand the safety rules and regulations that apply to your industry and company. 

The organization also offers additional resources businesses can use to shore up their workplace safety programs, including a free On-Site Consultation Program and Diverse Workforce/Limited English Proficiency (LEP) Coordinators to help train workers in languages other than English.

OSHA compliance benefits employees by providing a safer workplace, but there’s also a big benefit to employers, as well. Safety-minded employers tend to attract higher quality employees.

4. Equip workers with a safety tool kit. In order to not run afoul of OSHA guidelines, employers must assess the essential equipment new and current employees need to do their jobs safely. Personal protective equipment may include steel reinforced shoes, hard hats, gloves or safety goggles. Workplace equipment such as eyewash stations or emergency showers also may be required in some industries. 

Best practices surrounding safety equipment extend beyond the industrial environment and into workplaces that don’t contain heavy machinery or hazardous materials. Business owners should consider equipping offices with first aid kits and automated external defibrillators for use in emergencies. Be sure to teach employees how to properly use the safety equipment available to them and follow up to make sure they do.

5. Remember that Workers’ Compensation is not just a good idea—it’s the law. Participation in the Workers’ Compensation system is another mandate for businesses based in the United States. Employers are required to purchase insurance to fund wage replacements and medical costs for employees injured on the job. 

Workers’ Compensation coverage doesn’t extend to certain situations that occur in the workplace, including injuries that are self-inflicted or that occur as a result of intoxication. Be aware that it also doesn’t provide unilateral protection from lawsuits from employees who feel they are being unfairly denied benefits. It is vital for business owners to understand the nuances of the Workers’ Compensation system to make sure both the employer and employee are protected in the event of an injury incident. Because Workers’ Compensation is governed by state law, each state’s system is slightly different. Be sure to check on the details of your state’s laws.

Safety in the workplace is everyone’s responsibility. One of the best things you can do for your employees is to maintain a company-wide culture of safety and instill its importance into every worker beginning on the day of hire. 

Lisa Hoover McGreevy is a professional journalist and blogger with more than 15 years of experience covering enterprise products and services, brand marketing, and emerging technology for OnDeck.

 

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