Accident and injury statistics show that in their first six months in a job, workers are nearly 3½ times more likely to have a reportable accident than those who have been in the job for more than 5 years. They are also 2½ times more at risk than those in the job between 6 months and a year. Why should this be and what can you do to reduce the risk?
It shouldn’t be difficult to appreciate that a new starter won’t always have the experience of working in your employment sector, so they won’t be aware of your workplace and will not be familiar with their job or the work environment. What’s more they will usually wish to impress their workmates and managers making them reluctant to raise any concerns or problems; in some cases they may not be familiar with the arrangements in place for them to raise those concerns.
It’s much the same when new equipment or processes are introduced or following a move to a new post. Due to lack of experience, potential sources of danger may not be recognised or understood. Corners may be cut because of a wish to emphasise the benefits of the new equipment or process or because of a wish to impress colleagues.
Young workers, migrant workers and those who don’t have English as a first language may be particularly vulnerable. The young people because they lack maturity and work experience and for migrant workers because different rules apply in their homelands or they don’t really understand the training and instruction they have been given.
The Health and Safety Executive identifies six steps to protecting new starters-
1. The first is to assess the worker’s literacy and numeracy, their familiarity with the working environment, their work experience and physical ability to do the job. This will include, where relevant, an assessment of cultural and language issues.
2. Provide a carefully planned and thorough induction to the business. Use plain and simple language, use an interpreter if necessary, use photographs and take the time to walk around the workplace showing the new starter where the main hazards exist. Explain emergency arrangements and procedures.
3. Make sure your control measures really do protect against risk, are up to date and being used. Make sure they are explained and emphasise the importance of reporting accidents and near-misses. Explain why personal protective equipment is provided, how it should be maintained and the arrangements for replacing it should it become damaged. Where it is part of your control system explain the nature and purpose of health surveillance.
4. In addition to the general information about hazards in the workplace provide specific job related information, instruction and training. Explain the precautions that need to be taken to avoid risk.
5. Provide adequate supervision; new starters should be closely supervised. Make sure the supervisor understands the possible problems due to unfamiliarity or inexperience. Make sure the new worker knows how to raise concerns and the person to raise them with. Introduce them to this person; they are more likely to remember and approach a person than a “name”.
6. Always make sure that the new worker has understood the information, instruction and training given to them. Check, especially during the first days and weeks that they are acting on this information.
Remember to keep records of the training given to new starters at their induction and include details of the people who were involved in giving the training. The records don’t need to be long-winded. You will also need to keep an account of any job-specific training given, both formal training and informal training such as tool-box talks. Although this record-keeping may seem a bureaucratic chore it is important. If you are challenged simple brief contemporaneous records are vital and they provide strong evidence. Without them you will find it difficult to disprove a challenge.
Peninsula clients have access to suitable forms for this purpose along with general guidance on training and employing young, migrant and temporary workers in their health and safety management systems.
If you require any assistance on the topics raised in this piece, please contact our 24 Hour Advice Service on 0844 892 2772.