Managing high injury rates for new and inexperienced workers

The importance of focused orientation training



By Libby Reed, Risk Solutions Specialist

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, more than one-third of work-related, nonfatal injuries occur in employees who have been on the job less than a year.1 The reasons may be traceable to several factors associated with new employees. These workers are often less experienced in their line of work, are less familiar with the workplace and its hazards, and have received less safety training than long-term employees. They may also be less aware of their rights and responsibilities related to safety and feel less comfortable notifying their employer about hazards or unsafe conditions.

Another contributing factor to rising injury rates in new workers is age. Individuals entering the workforce for the first time are generally between 16 and 24 years old. A study published in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report found that employees under the age of 24 are two times more likely to be injured on the job than those over 25.2 In 2018, 360 US workers under the age of 24 died from work-related injuries.3 These numbers illustrate how even a simple mistake can result in a fatality.

What can employers do to help mitigate hazards and reduce risks among new or inexperienced workers?

  • New hires should undergo a safety orientation before starting work. Content should include topics like notifying workers of their safety rights and responsibilities, explaining how to identify and report hazards, how to locate health and safety information, and the basics on reporting injuries and investigating accidents. Employees should be actively encouraged to participate in a workplace safety culture.
  • Beyond the initial orientation, employers should conduct more in-depth safety training on common hazards in the workplace. Even seasoned workers can fall out of a routine and need reminders on what to watch out for and how to stay focused and safe.
  • Supervisors should follow up by assessing workers’ comprehension, including their skills in identifying hazards, reporting unsafe conditions, and following job-specific safety procedures. Any employee who does not demonstrate a thorough understanding of safety protocols should receive additional training.
"Employees should be actively encouraged to participate in a workplace safety culture."

 

  • The training process should be reinforced regularly. Frequent, all-employee safety meetings will keep the information fresh in employees’ minds. Safety policies and procedures need to be underscored, and employees’ safety progress in their roles should be consistently tracked
  • Any time a new workplace hazard is introduced or work processes are changed, all affected workers—new and veteran—must receive safety training to address those specific items.

While injury rates among new and inexperienced workers have been historically high, businesses can mitigate hazards and help protect employees from injury, illness, and death. However, proactive safety measures are essential, and participation from both employers and employees is critical.

1 US Bureau of Labor Statistics. (2019). Table R71. Number of nonfatal occupational injuries and illnesses involving days away from work by selected worker characteristics and number of days away from work, and median number of days away from work, private industry, 2019. bls.gov/iif/oshwc/osh/case/cd_r71_2019.htm
2 Guerin, R.J., Reichard, A.A., Derk, S., Hendricks, K.J., Menger-Ogle, L.M., Okun, A.H. (2020). Nonfatal Occupational Injuries to Younger Workers, United States, 2012–2018. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, 69(35), 1204–1209. dx.doi.org/10.15585/mmwr.mm6935a3
3 US Bureau of Labor Statistics. (2019). Table A-8. Fatal occupational injuries by event of exposure and age, all United States, 2018. bls.gov/iif/oshwc/cfoi/cftb0329.htm