Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Tips for Reducing Injuries Among New Employees

Statistics show that new employees are more likely to injure themselves within the first year of employment than any other employee on the job. There are many factors that may contribute to these injuries from inexperience, to a lack of understanding of safety procedures. Some new hires, particularly those new to the field, can also face tremendous difficulty if they are not physically ready for the demands of a job. To address this issue, Kristen Chipman and Tricia Sweat developed the systematic approach for reducing workplace injuries presented in “Reducing Injuries Among New Employees,” at the 2013 National Safety Congress and Expo in Chicago.

Chipman, environmental, health and safety professional at Cianbro Fabrication & Coatings Corporation, and Sweat, safety, health and environmental manager at Graphic Packaging International, work in very physically demanding fields with relatively high turnover rates, so they are very familiar with new hires. Being faced with this situation, the two have established a method that can be broken down into five steps:

1. Pre-Placement Medical Evaluation
When it comes to physically demanding jobs, pre-placement evaluations are essential to ensure that new employees are physically ready for their assigned jobs. Sweat and Chipman suggest partnering with a physician to assist in pre-screening exams or evaluation analysis to look for pre-existing conditions or injuries that may hinder performance or set someone up for injury in the future. Doctors serve as third party experts to evaluate worker conditions and can be useful in setting up work modifications. 

2. Work Modifiers
When new employees do have restrictions (determined in the evaluation), employers can set up modifications to ease employees into a workload. In some cases, new employees can work their way up to a normal workload quickly while others may need to be given more time. To ensure both parties’ commitment to safety, these special worker-modifications should be accompanied by signed agreement with the worker and should include work-restriction reporting, Chipman and Sweat agree. Workers and employers should continue to track changes annually to adjust restrictions accordingly.

3. Orientation
Both Sweat and Chipman stress the importance of orientation, as it is the “first impressions” for new hires. Orientation is an opportunity to make all company policies and safety expectations clear, as well as test new workers for comprehension. At Cianbro Fabrication & Coatings Corporation, all new hires that complete the orientation are eligible for the OSHA 10-hour card, because the two-day orientation covers all of the points in the certificate. While certainly not practical for all facilities, Chipman believes this process gives her orientation an added value for new hires.

4. Mentorship
Mentorship programs are a great way to help mold new hires into seasoned professionals. These programs allow employers to select those employees whose behaviors they would like to see modeled. These programs boost teamwork and can form relationships between mentee and mentors that last long after the program ends. They suggest giving new employees hands-on, face-to-face mentoring for a set amount of time and keeping a documented system and oversight of both mentors and mentees to ensure continued success. However, Sweat and Chipman warn that picking a good mentor may not be as easy as it sounds. Not all employees are able to express themselves in the same way that so employers must consider picking a mentor based on a number of qualifications in addition to their work performance. 

5. Behavior-Based Safety Program
Behavior-based safety programs promote improved safety awareness and success in identifying at risk behaviors all employees. These programs encourage “blame free” feedback on performance and reinforce safe behavior and workplace conditions for both new and veteran employees, Chipman says. She believes that these programs have changed the culture in her company to a more unified safety culture.