Canadian Rental Service

What went Hong: New worker safety

By James Hong   

Features Business Intelligence labour

Give special attention to educating new workers about safety.

Everyone is commenting on the difficulty of finding new workers and that’s leading to rental stores having to hire people who might have less experience and training than is optimal. There are serious added safety considerations employers need to have when bringing on new workers. Let’s look at how we can better protect them.

I recall seeing two young men on public transit one day, suited up with hard hats, boots and safety harnesses. They were also obviously drunk. Young guys, completely wasted on the way to a construction job where they would be working at heights. Before I could approach them, they exited the train. As a construction safety expert, nothing could be more alarming. They were oblivious to the risks they were taking that could cause serious injury and change the course of their lives permanently.

It’s vital for employers to assess new workers for their skill level and to assign appropriate and safe tasks. Also, to ensure they have the proper PPE and are trained to wear it properly. The basics are always required: hard hat, boots, protective eye wear and safety vest. Beyond that depends on the task. “No-risk” jobs do not exist on a  construction site. There are low-risk tasks that can be mitigated by providing basic orientation training  which can take as little as 10 minutes. Ten minutes to save a worker from injury is well worth the time, for the worker and for the company’s bottom line.

We all know there are circumstances where jobs fall behind and need extra workers to try to catch up. In those circumstances, things can get chaotic and basic onboarding orientation can be neglected. Something as simple as a musculoskeletal protection demonstration will train a new worker how to lift weight and carry material properly to prevent strains, sprains and other injury. A five-minute demonstration can save the worker from injury and the company from requiring an investigation or a job stop order.

Other basic onboarding training includes how to properly wear and fit a hard hat; what type of safety glasses are required for which job;  ladder safety; and safety PPE requirements. Pointing out emergency exits and muster station information is also a step that takes very little time. Ensuring new workers are dressed appropriately for colder weather exterior work also makes a huge difference to job risk factors.

Sometimes it’s as simple as assigning someone on the job to be the ongoing onboarding supervisor to ensure the important step of new worker orientation does not get neglected. For workers being hired on a more permanent basis, a proper new worker orientation is required. In addition to the above, the safety training for new permanent workers should include refusing unsafe work; hearing protection; hazardous materials awareness and handling; respiratory protection; safe work procedures; and scaffolding safety.

Another frequently overlooked part of safety orientation is to instruct new workers where the first aid kit is located and where to find an information sheet that includes names and contact numbers for supervisors and company personnel, including emergency contact information.

All these steps protect the new worker, existing workers and the company. They also promote a safety awareness working environment that tells the worker they are valued. In these times when it’s hard to find help, it might even encourage them to stick around long term.

These categories contain the bare minimum safety information for the most common jobs in any rental yard or shop. There is no reason to assume that an inexperienced or new worker would know any of this training information. Today, many of us are relying on new Canadians to address our worker shortages. Remember that they may have come from countries with different or absent safety regimes.

Be safe. Be well.  

James Hong is an independent writer and journalist.

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