Just How Vulnerable are New Employees?

Photo Credit: NIOSH

Yesterday during Oregon’s Construction Advisory Committee Meeting, we spent some time discussing a construction-related fatality that happened earlier this week in Seattle. While all workplace fatalities are unsettling and tragic – one point that was ever so striking was the report that the worker who died was on his first day at work.

Those of us in the safety field have heard statistics demonstrating the higher risk of getting hurt within the first six months of work. And of course, it’s not hard to see why inexperienced or young workers might fall into this mix. Earlier this week we learned about another serious workplace event involving a Portland teen who was assaulted while working alone at closing time. Without knowing details of this case, but having parented a teen worker with identical work responsibilities – I would expect that this teen didn’t have any substantial training about how to prevent or handle an emergency. I applaud our neighbors in Washington State who established a rule prohibiting those under 18 – inexperienced workers – from working alone after 8 pm.

What is it that makes young and new workers so vulnerable? Just think back to your first job or the first day at your current job. Even if you have the experience of your profession, consider all of the site-specific or job-specific details you may not know: how to dial out in an emergency, what to do in an emergency, what PPE to use and where to get it….the list is endless. And for workers engaged in potentially dangerous work – construction, logging, fisheries – one small mistake can be tragic.

Is your new employee safety training effective? Does it address key hazards of the job, what to do in emergencies and how to use the required personal protective equipment? Does it express your organizations policies, expectations and rights for workers to refuse unsafe work? Are employees exposed to effective safety training prior to being exposed to work hazards? While we know that safety training is a continual process, how do we go about ensuring that new and inexperienced workers aren’t being put in situations they are unprepared for? Certainly, appropriate on-the-job training and supervision are key.

Many of the suggestions for training young workers are appropriate when working with new employees: here’s an example of of an employer tip sheet from O[yes]. One thing we do know, is that most young and new workers want to make a good impression and do good work. It’s up to us to make sure that we help them feel comfortable asking questions, and go out of our way to discover methods that work for our workforce for safe discussions of critical safety needs and expectations. Do you have good tips or resources for new employee safety training and information?

CROETweb topics: Young Workers & Health and Safety Programs: Training for New Workers



One response to “Just How Vulnerable are New Employees?

  1. Hi Dede,

    Good article with helpful links to other training resources.It is nice to see the good work that you are doing,

    Thank you! Karen

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