New Hire Safety: How to Drive Injuries Down and Safety Up

June 4, 2020 • Missouri Employers Mutual

The Bureau of Labor shows that new hires make up just 22% of the workforce. However, they account for 40% of workplace injuries. Why are they at greater risk? And how can employers help them beat the odds by prioritizing new hire safety?

On this episode of the WorkSAFE Podcast, we are joined by Mark Woodward. He is a Safety and Risk Trainer at Missouri Employers Mutual. Woodward started at MEM in 2007 and has over 12 years of experience. His role is to help people prevent, and prepare, for the unexpected through safety training and education.

Listen to this episode on the WorkSAFE Podcast, or read the show notes below.

First, we’ll explain why new hires are most at risk for workplace injuries. Then, we’ll talk about how you can reduce new hire injuries during the hiring process. Finally, we’ll cover how to set up your new hires – and your current employees – for safety and success.

Why are new hires more likely to be injured at work?

New hires present risks for businesses in every industry. When employers look for new employees, they usually have a role that needs to be filled. This means they need someone who can start working right away. However, the rush to get a new hire working can mean skipping important on-boarding.

Many new employees don’t receive proper job or new hire safety training. Employers might encourage them to learn about their new job just by doing it. Others may suggest learning from another employee. The problem with these methods is that they are simply not enough.

Woodward points out that a lot of new hires want to look capable and ready on the job. They avoid asking questions. Some want to impress their new manager or teammates. They try to do this by taking on more work than is reasonable – or safe. At MEM, 40% of injury reports are related to new hires. An average lost work day claim can cost over $60,000. This can be a major blow to any company, but especially for a small business.

Are new hire injuries happening in your workplace?

Woodward suggests taking a look at all of your on-the-job injuries for the past 5-8 years. Were any of them new hires? How long were they on the job before they were hurt? If new hires are getting injured at your business, now is the best time to make a change.

Manufacturing employee works at a desk

4 hiring practices to prevent new hire injuries

To prevent new hire injuries in your workplace, Woodward recommends creating a hiring checklist. This is a list of best practices to use each time you consider a potential candidate for a job. Create a list that works for your business and industry. Then, use it every time. Use these four essential practices to start your list:

  1. Hold a proper job interview. Sit down with any job candidate you are considering. Ask them about their knowledge of your industry. Are they familiar with standard safety practices?
  2. Invest in a full background check. Know who you are hiring. Carry out a background check on anyone you are seriously interested in.
  3. Complete a post offer drug screening. Substance abuse can cause serious safety concerns on the job. In Missouri, employers have the right to screen employees before hiring them.
  4. Complete post offer employment testing (POET). Job candidates should be physically capable of doing the requirements of their role. This test will check that a candidate can do everything their job requires.

Post offer employment testing: protect new employees and your business

POET is a great way to protect new employees. Many jobs require physical skills, like lifting, using ladders, or the safe use of machinery. If your employee can’t do these things, then they run the risk of getting seriously injured. POET determines if the job candidate can actually do the job you’ve hired them for. MEM partners with WorkSTEPS to offer policyholders discounted rates on POET.

First, job candidates practice each task they’ll need to do on the job. Then, they receive a full physical. A doctor can often spot health problems that may cause issues in the future, like high blood pressure.

POET results sometimes mean that a candidate may not be hired. But other times, it just shows areas where they need to improve before they can start working. For Woodward, POET is an essential part of the hiring process. A job can be a great fit for certain candidates – but those candidates also need to be a good fit for the job.

Employee uses SawStop table saw

Risky business: 9 new hire safety warning signs

Employers should carefully consider any potential job candidates. There are important warning signs that they may not be the best choice. Woodward has seen employers make poor decisions. For example, hiring a candidate the same day without thorough testing, or offering to pay untrained workers in cash.

The following are signs to watch for when considering a candidate:

  • Work history. Do they have any industry experience?
  • Gaps in employment. Have they been without work for a long time? Why?
  • Poor general attitude.
  • Poor communication. Is it hard to reach them? Do they have a reliable phone number, email address, or contact method?
  • Lack of written job application.
  • Putting off a drug test. Have they missed their scheduled screening time or date? Are they hesitant to show up?
  • No ID or driver’s license.
  • Poor background check. Do they have a history of violence or theft?
  • Questionable social media content.

Woodward recommends that employers speak to an employment attorney about these signs if they are able. If you are looking to hire, referrals from employees can be a great place to start. Take the time to screen any and all potential workers.

Even if a candidate has past job experience, train them for your workplace. Your machines and equipment will be different. Processes will be different. The shop floor or workspace may be set up differently. Their experience at your business won’t be the same as their last job, so train them accordingly. This includes reviewing things like:

Complacency: a major risk for all employees

New hires aren’t the only ones at risk for an injury. Every person – no matter how experienced – is affected by complacency on the job. Woodward considers this one of the biggest challenges to safety.

“Complacency is a normal human behavior where we just get used to things,” he said. At home, this may look like forgetting to wear your seat belt, or putting off changing smoke detector batteries. At work, the results of complacency can be worse. We settle into a routine each day. As a result, we often stop taking important safety precautions. Safety is about keeping people on their toes, and alert to risks.

Some employers think that because they’ve never had an on-the-job injury, safety isn’t a concern. This isn’t true. Safety means regularly inspecting equipment, work areas, and tools. Go over safety rules with employees, and do it more than once a year. “Make sure that your rules are on paper so they can see them and follow them.”

An injury – new hire or not – can have a huge impact on a business. For example, one employee off the job means other employees now have to step up and fill in. Productivity can be reduced. There could be civil or criminal penalties.

Claims also affect premium. Increased premium costs can really impact small businesses. With average lost work day claims costing thousands of dollars, an increase in premium presents a challenge. “How much cash do you have to make to offset a $60,000 lost work day claim?” Woodward asked.

New hire safety: steps you can take today

MEM is always available to help employers establish safe workplaces. Safety training is available for businesses across different industries. Free Tool Box Talks, posters, starter kits, and sample safety policies are available in our Resource Library.

To keep all your employees safe, Woodward suggests these key tips:

  1. Get safety expectations in writing. Have your employees read – and sign – safety policies.
  2. Discuss every safety rule. Don’t assume employees have read your rules. Not every employee can read English well. Talk through your safety rules together.
  3. Follow up with new hires. A first day on the job can be busy. As a result, new hires might forget some safety information. Check in with them regularly.
  4. Enforce safety rules. If an employee doesn’t follow the rules, what are you going to do about it? Consider implementing a disciplinary policy for employees who don’t follow the safety rules.
  5. Share how to report an injury. Employees should report any injuries before the end of the day, and in writing. Were there witnesses? Make sure they fill out a statement too.
  6. Train managers and supervisors. It is important for employees at every level to know your safety rules. When an employee reports an injury, their manager should know the next steps to take.

New employees need more than a name tag and a timesheet. They need thorough job and new hire safety training. More than anything, they need employers invested in and committed to their safety.

For a complete guide to preparing new hires for safe work, download our New Hire Safety Toolkit.

June 4, 2020
Missouri Employers Mutual
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